A composer once said that the silence from which each note emerges is more important than the note itself. He said that it’s the empty space between the notes that literally allows the music to be music—if there’s no void, there’s only continuous sound. You can apply this subtle awareness to everything that you experience in your daily life. Ask yourself what makes a tree, a tree. The bark? The branches? The roots? The leaves? All of these things are what is. And all of them do not constitute a tree. What’s needed to have a tree is what is not—an imperceptible, invisible life force that eludes your five senses. You can cut and carve and search the cells of a tree endlessly and you’ll never capture it.
This 13th verse insists that ego and the need for importance are troublemakers that are energized by your in-the-world self. The way of the Tao is to be aware of your eternal nature and step outside of your self or body. No ego means no trouble; big ego equals big trouble. The Tao Te Ching rhetorically inquires, “If we have no body, what calamities can we have?” If you ask yourself this question, you’ll discover a Divine, invisible soul that’s independent of the opinions of all the afflicted seekers populating the world. In the spirit of the Tao, your true nature will replace the pursuit of external favor with the awareness that what others think of you is really none of your business!