I italicize phrases I borrow from the chapter, and link to phrases I borrow from other chapters to help tie chapters together. While making it more tedious to read, :? the Tao Te Ching is best pondered in the context of the whole.
I prefer the way Victor Mair puts
a few verses in this chapter. First, 'He who embodies the fullness of integrity is like a ruddy infant'
being less moralistically loaded that virtue
, i.e., [chref=38]a man of the highest virtue does not keep to virtue.[/chref] Ferocious animals will not pounce on it
is nonsense, although it may serve nicely as a cultural myth, like Santa Claus. Clearly, [chref=5]heaven and earth are ruthless[/chref]. Predators pounce on the very young and the very old without hesitation.
Back to the integrity
angle. The outstanding difference between A new born babe
and us is that it has no agenda. An infant
knows only 'now', with little or no sense of future or past compromising its integrity
. So, in the infant's subjective experience there are no bogie men out there, It has not yet [chref=32]cut the uncarved block[/chref] into thinking birds, insects, animals
. Here's the clue for how we can, even as adults, [chref=28]return to being a babe[/chref]. Not to cease thinking, just trust the turth of our thinking less and less. When we believe insects sting
us, that produces a kind of defacto mental reality, no matter if or how often insects actually do so. The fear becomes the reality. The same applies to most every aspect of life doesn't it?
Next is Victor Mair's 'Harmony implies constancy; Constancy requires insight
'. Mind helps pull us into our messes; can it help pull us out, or does it just dig the hole deeper? After all, emotions drive thinking and actions. Thinking and actions reinforce emotions. Are we're stuck in a vicious circle? Not if insight
peeks outside our emotional 'box'. Insight
, or seeing inward, sees past ideas of self ('I am') into the [chref=16]emptiness[/chref] that lies beyond. This perception (almost a premonition) seems to have a weak and [chref=21]shadowy[/chref] influence in the other direction. This insight
, the [chref=41]image [that] has no shape[/chref], keeps most of our vicious circles from flying apart at the seams.
Trying to add to one's vitality is called ill-omened
. Try telling that to all those folks who employ 'Taoist' gimmicks to add to one's vitality
. Furthermore, And, Taoist ambiguity sure lends itself to quackery as well. It is ironic, like the 'Christian' inquisition. Christ and Laozi must be turning over in their graves.
The Ma-Wang-Tui manuscripts filled in missing characters of the last verse which gave it this more accurate reading: Something that grows old while still in its prime is said to be not in accord with the Way
. I don't know the point here other than to paraphrase chapter 36: [chref=36] If you would have a thing old, You must first let it be in its prime[/chref]. There is a time to be young and foolish, a time to be old and wise. One [chref=2]complements[/chref] the other. Perfect advice for parents; mistakes are the pathway to insight!