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The Way of the Tao Is Reversal

The Way of the Tao Is ReversalAs Jackson Browne put it: Don’t think it won’t happen just because it hasn’t happened yet.

We can summarize all that will unfold in the next few years in one line: The way of the Tao is reversal. This is the opening line of Chapter 40 of Lao Tzu’s 5,000-character commentary on the Tao, The Tao Te Ching. There are many translations of this slim volume, and for a variety of reasons I favor the 1975 translation by my old professor at the University of Hawaii, Chang Chung-yuan (1907-1988), whom I would occasionally see doing Tai Chi late at night on his front yard in Manoa Valley.

Professor Chang–who would often write Chinese characters on the blackboard with great energy to make a point–rendered this line in English as Reverse is the movement of Tao. Others have translated it as Reversal is the movement of Tao.

Given the obscurity and ambiguity of Taoist concepts, this line has many interpretations. I prefer the way of the Tao is reversal because the Tao is fundamentally about virtue, power and what we might call authenticity. Thus all that is presented as permanent will be revealed as impermanent, all that is presented as true will be revealed as false and all that is presented as virtuous will be revealed as fraud.

In the present era, we can discern these potential reversals:

1. The all-powerful Federal Reserve will lose control and its power will dissipate into thin air.

2. Rather than linger at zero or negative rates as expected, interest rates will reverse and start moving inexorably higher.

3. What was presented as permanent–the value of national currencies and assets–will be revealed as impermanent.

4. What was presented as the power to force compliance will be revealed as powerlessness.

5. What was presented as wealth will be revealed as impoverishment.

6. What was presented as virtue will be revealed as greed and self-interest.

7. What was presented as “growth” was nothing but fraud piled on fraud.

8. What was presented as permanently abundant–food, credit, etc.– will become increasingly scarce.

If we seek a forecast of the era that’s now unfolding, consider Chapter 9 of The Tao Te Ching as translated by Professor Chang:

To hold things and to be proud of them is not as good as not to have them,

Because if one insists on an extreme, that extreme will not dwell long.

When a room is full of precious things, one will never be able to preserve them.

When one is wealthy, high ranking, and proud of himself, he invites misfortune.

Or as Jackson Browne put it: Don’t think it won’t happen just because it hasn’t happened yet.

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Charles Hugh Smith
At readers' request, I've prepared a biography. I am not confident this is the right length or has the desired information; the whole project veers uncomfortably close to PR. On the other hand, who wants to read a boring bio? I am reminded of the "Peanuts" comic character Lucy, who once issued this terse biographical summary: "A man was born, he lived, he died." All undoubtedly true, but somewhat lacking in narrative.
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