The Tao of Eastwood

Chapter 8

See the World as Yourself

It’s what people know about themselves’ inside that makes them afraid.

The Stranger | High Plains Drifter

What does it mean that hope is as hollow as fear?
Hope and fear are both phantoms
that arise from thinking of the self.
When we don’t see self as self,
what do we have to fear?
See the world as yourself.
Have faith in the way things are.
Love the world as yourself;
Then you can care for all things.

Tao Te Ching | from verse 13

In a rare moment of openness, the Stranger shares a bit of wisdom to the pained and terrified people of Lago. He is trying, perhaps, to help them in a gentler manner than his usual violent style. Help them understand the real reason he as shown up on their doorstep.

In other words, the Stranger is saying, “This is happening to you now because of the anger and selfishness you carry around but won’t admit to. If you would but do the right thing, I’ll ride off and leave you in peace.”

Stephen Mitchell’s interpretation of this verse from the Tao Te Ching is that the outer experience is a reflection or mirror of the inner one. To “see the world as you see yourself” is to love it just the way it is. When your “self-ishness” takes over, you cling to hope and fear, and the outer world becomes as desperate and crazy as the inner.

The Stranger actually makes this comment to only one person, the hotel proprietor’s wife. She tells the Stranger that the town’s people are afraid of him because he is dangerous. But Eastwood makes it clear he is not the one they should be most afraid of.

She alone realizes the inner corruption the Lagoan’s can’t seem to overcome and finally packs up and moves on; leaving them all to their inevitable, deathly fate.