Be self-sufficient but not isolated.
All the philosophy of Tao is intended to lead to self-sufficiency. Whatever one needs to do in life, one should be able to do on one’s own. Whether one is trapped in the wilderness or whether one is dealing with a social gathering requiring etiquette and grace, one should be able to cope with aplomb and ease.
Being self-sufficient is not the same as being isolated. This is a very important point. When the king of China closed the borders, the country was self-sufficient enough to enjoy the contentment. But eventually an inbred society developed. Stagnation and decay set in.
The same problems can arise in people who are so self-sufficient that they fail to engage life fully. Either they will implode from the sheer weight of their own decadence and stagnation, or they will explode once the outside world confronts them with something they cannot comprehend.
Those who follow Tao roam the world. They may avail themselves of the temporary advantages of withdrawal and intense self-cultivation, but they do not become permanently isolated. They flow with the Tao, are with all things, and therefore avoid decadence.
Deng Ming-Dao (author)
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