The Taoist Trader: Tao Te Ching (Chapter 5, Part 1)
Heaven and Earth are impartial;
They see the ten thousand things as straw dogs.
The wise are impartial;
They see the people as straw dogs.
The space between heaven and earth is like a bellows.
The shape changes but not the form.
The more it moves, the more it yields.
More words count less.
Hold fast to the center.
(By Lao Tsu, translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English)
“Heaven and Earth are impartial” and “The wise are impartial” remind me of the impartial qualities of the ocean (nature). When I was nineteen years old and in the Naval Air Corps, I was stationed in Guam. I arranged my circumstances (another story) to enable me to surf almost every day.
One friend who was a huge man from Texas, I named the “Hulk.” When Hulk was first learning to surf he attempted to catch a six-foot wave and waited too long to stand up. The wave fell upon him and he and his board disappeared. My friend Harry and I were sitting on our boards behind the breakers waiting for a good wave. After about 30 seconds I became concerned and turned to Harry and asked, “Where’s the Hulk?” Harry pointed to an area on the reef quite some distance away and I saw the Hulk prone on his board, tightly gripping its sides and riding it into the shallow water on the reef. The Hulk rode his board, partly underwater, partly buffeted by the white water, in a diagonal journey onto the reef. By this feat, Hulk certainly earned his name. However, the ocean was impartial. The ocean didn’t care if Hulk lived or died.
What time is it? It’s another Hulk story time. Hulk eventually became a fairly accomplished surfer. One day he borrowed a surfing college’s brand-new, very expensive, top-of-the-line surf board. He and I decided to surf the pre-typhoon waves. These waves can get to be 20 feet or more (I never surfed a 20-foot wave. I wasn’t nineteen and “crazy.”). I was knee-paddling in the boat channel toward the large waves when I saw Hulk setting up to catch a wave. It was a 10-footer and Hulk’s entry point and entry angle was too steep. It looked like he was falling down an elevator shaft. Hulk was falling vertically (feet-first) with his board falling vertically (nose-down) right behind him. Both Hulk and his board crashed into the ocean and the 10-foot wave crashed viciously upon them. Slicing up through the white water and flying into the air came two halves of Hulk’s “borrowed” board. Each half of the board landed into the boat channel and the tide promptly swept them out to sea. Hulk’s head and arms eventually emerged from the turbulent, frothing sea and Hulk with great strength and determination swam to the reef. (We wore tennis shoes when we surfed to avoid cut feet when we walked on the reef.).
Again, the ocean didn’t care if Hulk lived or died. A number of times I’ve been sucked underwater and held there by the ocean’s hand after being pummeled by a large wave. The knowledge of the ocean’s impartiality resides in my bones. I know the ocean doesn’t play favorites. It doesn’t care if I live or die.
To be continued…