Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Nothing to gain, nothing to lose. That’s the position of power. When there is no bribe to offer, no threat to deliver, there is no leverage to gain. Then, we are true equals, and must seek cooperation on some basis other than what we can give, or take away.

The traditional base of power is controlling the advantages that might accrue to the other. If I can position myself so as to determine your advantage, I hold the position of power over you. Then, you have to make me happy in order to be happy yourself. You take that position away from me when you no longer care about anything I can offer or remove.

What becomes of negotiation when there is nothing to gain, nothing to lose? The idea of negotiation is that we give up this to get that. Remove extortion and ransom, threat and promise, and how do we proceed? What is the basis of life together among equals? Mutual interests? Common values? A unified desire to serve the true good of all?

As things currently stand, the basis of our life together is getting, keeping, and taking away. I live to have more than you have. I want the advantages for me and mine, and the disadvantages for you and yours. No one asks, “What’s the advantage of having the advantage?” Everyone is sure it is the thing to have, else why all the trouble to get it? Yet, how much better off are we for being increasingly better off? At what point does having the advantage shift over into not being advantageous? What is the swing point, where additional advantages do not make us better off? What do we really need to be well off? “You can’t be too wealthy,” we say, ignoring the fact that after a certain point more money does not equal a better life.

My hunch is that we need only enough resources to be who we are. We need the freedom of self exploration and self expression. We need an atmosphere in which we can be true to ourselves, where we can be most truly “us.” A gardener needs to garden, a painter needs to paint, a writer needs to write. There is that within which needs to get out, which needs to be released, which needs to be given to the world. We come packed with a gift within, a genius, a soul, a self which needs to be shared with our neighbors as a boon, a blessing, the true advantage, for all.

WE are the advantage for the true good of all! Each of us is to be about the work of unfolding the gift of ourselves and offering it to each other. We bring the advantage of ourselves to life and give it away, serving the advantage of the whole, so that everyone benefits from her, from his, association with everyone else. The benefit, the advantage, is our life together. Our lives are made better by the presence of one another. We live together as a blessing for all.

What would it take to reorient ourselves from getting, keeping, taking to unfolding, expressing, sharing? In the center of our essential self, there is nothing to gain, nothing to lose. At the level of the heart, we have all we need for the expression of our genius in the world. The boon of us is for everyone, ourselves included. We gain everything in giving it all away.

It’s a hard sell, of course. We don’t believe we already have what we need. We are sure a sail boat would do it, or a home in the mountains, or fame and fortune. It’s “out there,” whatever it is, the thing we need to be whole, complete, at peace, and happy. We are sure of it.

But, the treasure is within. We carry it with us when we go in search of it. “Zen is like a man riding his ox in search of his ox.” “Well, that’s stupid,” we say, sitting on the treasure looking for the treasure.


We believe in cause and effect. We think that if we do “this,” “that” will happen. We try to arrange “that” by doing “this,” “this,” and “this.” And are nonplussed when the outcome isn’t to our liking. “We don’t understand,” we say. “We did ‘this,’ ‘this,’ and ‘this,’ but ‘that’ didn’t materialize.” And, we have no idea of what we must do for no reason other than because it must be done.

All of our doing is done in light of getting something to happen because of our doing. We don’t do anything just to do the thing. We do whatever we do to manipulate some outcome into being. We do “this” to get “that.” What is it that we “just do”? Because we must? Because we want to? Because we like doing it? Why don’t we do more of it, more often?


The path to the center, to the heart, of our “essential self,” is a playful path. It is not serious. It is not something we think about. It is something we find ourselves doing, absent-mindedly, while we are thinking about doing something else. It is something we do to “get our minds off” what we spend all our time thinking about. Where do we go for relief? To recover and be restored? What do we do there? What constitutes “play” for us?

Playfulness unfolds, discloses, reveals, makes plain. We wish all moments could be like that moment. That all days could be as free as that day. We see a side of ourselves in play that we could never be in “real life.” We touch something about ourselves in play that we could never reveal in “the real world.” There is a spontaneity in play that we have to reign in, box up, put away when we put our “serious face” back on. Or, think we do.

Live playfully. That’s the rule. What would you do differently if you lived playfully? Do those things. As one who has nothing to gain, nothing to lose.

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