I came across the following verses, written more than 2500 years ago by Lao Tzu:
(part of verse 44, Tao Te Ching)
What contributes more to you:
Your self or your fame?
What matters more to you:
Your self or the possessions in your name?
When I read these verses, at first, I was revolting a bit against them.
These were questions and I felt I could answer as I wanted.
I wanted to choose the fame. Somewhere deep inside of us resides this longing to be renowned, to have some fame, to have a name that will be remembered. And I think it is good. If we are living in a corner, in anonymity, what can we possibly do or mean for the world? It was quite clear however that these verses were written and intended to make the reader aware of the opposite. The author intended us to become aware, to come to the conclusion that fame is less important than self.
Is it really? I refuse to put fame and a good name in the category of unimportant things. They are very important. When thinking then about how could I reach to the deeper meaning of these verses, I thought about the meaning of my Self. The I inside of me, my Self, is that part that has the values and the principles, the soul. But I am not only soul. I am also heart and mind and body. It may well be the soul that controls the rest of me in a certain way. When I manage to make it quiet enough to listen to my soul and when I manage to live up to my values of love, kindness, integrity, honesty, compassion and so on, I feel at peace with myself. Whenever I violate some of my inner self-values, I feel a lack of peace, an excess of stress.
While thinking like this, the meaning of the verses became a bit clearer. I think the verses do not condemn fame and possessions, but if in the process of acquiring them, we give up our values, our principles which are basically belonging to our soul, it may be all not worth it. Because without these values, we lose our peace of mind, our own sense of purpose our own happiness. I think the author meant: if you cannot get fame or richness without giving up your soul-values, you may be better off for the future not to have (yet) fame and wealth. And that is a great message for all of us, I think…