When a wise scholar hears the Tao,
He practises it diligently.
When a mediocre scholar hears the Tao,
He wavers between belief and unbelief.
When a worthless scholar hears the Tao,
He laughs boisterously at it.
But if such a one does not laugh at it,
The Tao would not be the Tao!
The wise men of old have truly said:
The bright Way looks dim.
The progressive Way looks retrograde.
The smooth Way looks rugged.
High Virtue looks like an abyss.
Great whiteness looks spotted.
Abundant Virtue looks deficient.
Established Virtue looks shabby.
Solid Virtue looks as though melted.
Great squareness has no corners.
Great talents ripen late.
Great sound is silent.
Great Form is shapeless.
The Tao is hidden and nameless;
Yet it alone knows how to render help and to fulfill.
This passage can be summed up in a single line from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice: “All that glisters is not gold—.” Things are never all they appear. But Lao Tzu is also incorporating the yin and yang into his metaphors. Everything by natures also contains its opposite. Great squareness has no corners. Great sound is silent. In other words, nothing can exist without the opposite to balance it. The wise scholar cannot exist without the worthless one. There can be no life without death, and no death without life. There can be no peace without war, and no war without peace. There can be no light without darkness.
I feel like this is all I need to say about this passage. It is simple and yet profound, which is the genius of Lao Tzu. Thanks for stopping by.
5 responses to ““Tao Teh Ching: Chapter 41” by Lao Tzu”
I like your analysis of the passage, the observation that everything contains its opposite. I’d say we can have peace without war, though. Conflict is necessary to life, and to creativity and change–but not war.
Thanks for your comment, Amber. I personally find war to be the most horrific part of human existence, but sadly, it is still part of human existence. I would like to think that at some point we will collectively evolve past this, but not sure I will see it in my lifetime. Cheers and blessings.
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Some of my most profound moments come at the most ordinary of times. Doing the dishes, taking a walk… Thanks for another great post. I have reposted it using that Chrome app I mentioned.
Thank you for your insightful comment, and for the repost. Always great to hear from you. Cheers!