“Tao Teh Ching: Chapter 13” by Lao Tzu

TaoTehChing

“Welcome disgrace as a pleasant surprise.
Prize calamities as your own body.”

Why should we “welcome disgrace as a pleasant
surprise”?
Because a lowly state is a boon:
Getting it is a pleasant surprise,
And so is losing it!
That is why we should “welcome disgrace as a pleasant
surprise.”

Why should we “prize calamities as our own body”?
Because our body is the very source of our calamities.
If we have no body, what calamities can we have?

Hence, only he who is willing to give his body for the
sake of the world is fit to be entrusted with the world.
Only he who can do it with love is worthy of being the
steward of the world.

So I struggled with this passage and had to read it a couple times. I’m still not sure I fully grasp what Lao Tzu is saying, but here is my interpretation. I think that disgrace and calamity may refer to failure. The old saying goes that there is no shame in failure, there is only shame in not trying. If you try to live a spiritual life and fail, or if you try to be a good steward of the world and fail, at least you attempted and did your best. We have no control over outcomes, only our efforts.

I also could not help thinking about Nietzsche, and how that which does not kill us makes us stronger. Adversity can often motivate us, and overcoming difficulties can sometimes lead to spiritual growth. Suffering can be a path to enlightenment; although, given a choice, I would probably choose the path of less suffering.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. If you have any insights into this passage, please feel free to share them in the comment section. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Cheers and blessings.

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2 Comments

Filed under Literature, Spiritual

2 responses to ““Tao Teh Ching: Chapter 13” by Lao Tzu

  1. Hey there, Jeff. Hmmm, yeah, I had to read this one a couple of times and take a few breaths. Deep practice, but maybe one we have a twinkle of insight about it it opens up a bit more. (It’s like getting the ‘bloody swords’ or ‘oppression’ cards in Tarot…on the surface, it gives a twinge of panic.) I’m inclined to agree with what you’ve shared, knowing particularly that fears of ‘disgrace’ and ‘calamity’ (etc.) would hold us in a sort of perpetual inaction or mediocrity, and any gifts (that would benefit others) might not be developed much less expressed. I’m still contemplating it, though (and likely will be practicing into this one for a while!). xo J

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