Feeding the Belly

A creek feeding the ocean belly.

Do you ever feel the weight of the world is pressing down on you?
And it seems like there is so much is riding on each decision you make.
And all your “bad” decisions, made in the past haunt you.
Wouldn’t it feel good to “win” for once?
Why do we always feel “accountable”?
We draw our lines between people, thoughts, actions.
Then we offer rewards and punishments accordingly.

The five colors make people’s eyes blind,
The five sounds make people’s ears deaf,
The five taste make people’s mouths brittle,
Rushed hunting make people’s hearts go crazy.
Goods hard to come by make people behave harmfully.
Because of this, the wise person acts for the belly, not the eye,
Hence, he leaves that and takes this.

Verse 12 from: A Word For Word Translation by Carl Abbott

At first glance one might read this verse as a call to remove yourself from the world, avoid all kinds of stimulation, become a hermit. But that is not how I read it. Certainly there is the observation that the “wise person” “leaves that and takes this.” But it is not so much a nod to moderation as it is a nod to something much more ambiguous. Saying “moderation is all things” is very simple. But this is something different:, how does the wise person “act for the belly and not the eye” or should we even try to be a “wise person”.

Again, thinking of this verse as an observation rather than a prescription gives it more depth. Our blindness is not caused by the colors of the world. Our blindness arises from the dividing and categorizing. We categorize people as: teachers, doctors, poets, addicts, winos, murderers, lawyers, politicians, comics and on, and on. But the labels set up “good” vs “bad” in an unnatural way and blinds us to the true nature of the person inside the label. Our blindness is caused by our own categories and our own rushed impulses.

“Acting for the belly and not the eye” would have a very different look on different people. It could be restated as; “act for the need, not the want”. Finding our wants is relatively easy, we simply look around us, and see things we like, and add that thing to our list. Finding our needs is a different kind of process. It requires a lot of listening to our ourselves and searching for our true nature. Finding our wants is a task, finding our needs is a process.

Finding our wants weighs us down with tasks and feelings of winning or losing. Reaching and striving for this goal and then that goal. Searching for our needs is a never-ending process which gives us a center. We can never fail or succeed, and the search is ongoing.


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