Over the weekend I read the following two news items:
U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is practically alone on the job, working night and day to cope with the worst economic downturn in decades.
Barack Obama’s offhand approach to Gordon Brown’s Washington visit last week came about because the president was facing exhaustion over America’s economic crisis and is unable to focus on foreign affairs. Sources close to the White House say Mr. Obama and his staff have been “overwhelmed” by the economic meltdown and have voiced concerns that the new president is not getting enough rest.
Yes, but what are they doing when they work hard? Do the literally trillions of transactions that take place every day in the United States have to come across their desks for approval? Are they falling behind in their paperwork, and the trains have stopped running? Of course, they are not doing any of that. If they went to bed earlier, the supermarket shelves would still be stocked tomorrow; and we would have more money in our pocketbook.
It is still winter up North; and last night, sitting by the woodstove, I reread Stephen Mitchell’s excellent translation of the Tao Te Ching. Lao-tzu had much to say about governing:
When the Master governs, the people are hardly aware that he exists.
The Master does his job, and then stops. He understands that the universe is forever out of control, and that trying to dominate events goes against the current of the Tao.
Stop trying to control. Let go of fixed plans and concepts, and the world will govern itself.
Perhaps Geithner and Obama have never heard of the Tao, or perhaps they think Lao-tzu’s venerable words are just ancient Chinese nonsense—not applicable to those with Ivy League educations? Perhaps they might be more impressed by the words of Friedrich Hayek, a Nobel laureate in economics:
To the naive mind that conceives of order only as the product of deliberate arrangement, it may seem absurd that in complex conditions order and adaptation to the unknown can be achieved more effectively by decentralizing decisions.
In other words, let the multitude of market participants by their independent decisions resolve the questions of which automakers will survive, which loans will be restructured, and which consumers and businesses will get new credit. Hayek instructs us that spontaneous orders, like the free-market, have a “degree of complexity (that) is not limited to what the human mind can master.” In other words, no matter how many sleepless nights they endure, no matter how many more staffers Obama and Geithner hire, the problems they’re trying to solve cannot be solved by their “superior” minds.
In his book Dialogues in Metapsychiatry the late psychiatrist Thomas Hora relates this story:
Last week I asked a physician: “Where do your intelligent ideas come from?” And he promptly answered: “From my forebrain.” So I asked him: “Where does your forebrain get it from?” He didn’t know. Then I asked him: “Have you ever heard of God?” He said: “I am not religious.”
Hora goes on to explain that as human beings, we have the quality of consciousness which allows us to be aware of ideas. We can be aware of creative and intelligent ideas, but Hora tells us these ideas do not come from the brain:
This brain cannot produce an intelligent idea. Consciousness does not produce ideas, just as a radio does not produce music, it receives the music. Man receives ideas. The flower receives the sunbeam directly from the sun. The sun is the source of that vital energy, which makes the flower blossom. There is a direct connection between the sun and the flower. Similarly, there is a direct connection between God and that consciousness which man is. Man cannot reach up to God, man is connected with God and inseparable from God as consciousness. Another name for God is Cosmic Consciousness.
Man cannot demand inspired ideas; man is capable of receiving inspired ideas. Staying up late or trying to do what no man can do will not produce inspired ideas. For all of their “efforts” Geithner and Obama have become open channels for what Hora calls the Sea of Mental Garbage—this is the sea where our ego lives; the place we go when we think we can control what is forever uncontrollable.