When I grow up, I want to be a Taoist sage.
This is a book of detachment from the petty struggles of human society. Huanchu Daoren was reputed to have been a layman past the age of 60- the time of retirement from public affairs and the closing season of life. Yet one gets the sense that he had been preparing himself for this detachment, practicing it as best he could, for all of his life. As he puts it, retire when you are at the height of your career- and count yourself as a survivor. For this is a book on how to live the most simple, pure, and genuine life even when surrounded by power, wealth, and chaos. It shows how to move among the powerful, the vicious, and the ignorant without losing your center. It even points the Way towards clearing your mind in order to find this center. Once found, the sage is imperturbable. Indeed, the sage is the nucleus around which harmony and natural order coalesce in the human realm.
There is an incredible wealth of concentrated wisdom here, verified and filtered by the ages:
When the rich and well established, who should be generous, are instead spiteful and cruel, they make their behavior wretched and base in spite of their wealth and position. When the intellectually brilliant, who should be reserved, instead show off, they are ignorant and foolish in their weakness in spite of their brilliance.
"Always leave some food for the mice; pity the moths and don't light the lamp." Thoughts like these that the ancients had are the living, life-giving mechanism of us humans. Without this, we are no more than statues or manikins.
When enlightened people are so poor that they cannot help others, if they speak a word to awaken the confused or to resolve a problem, there is also boundless merit in that.