[Note: 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.]
A man of great virtue follows the way and the way only is the measure of [chref=41]the best student[/chref]. I recall, like one of Cinderella's sisters, trying to stuff myself into the shoes of great virtue. Fortunately I 'soon' felt the futility and realized my failure, and have since been gradually 'disappearing'. What else could possibly happen as I began to feel the [chref=14]indistinct and shadowy[/chref] essence of failure? It is ironic that failure allows me to feel the essence I was struggling to become... well, at least until I start [chref=8]contending[/chref] again. Alas, oh well, naturally... we [chref=36]must first[/chref] struggle to make failure possible. It is all quite [chref=56]mysterious[/chref], and something to live for as [chref=19]desires[/chref] wither away. And, we do need something to live for, if not for something we [chref=37]desire[/chref]! Instinct demands it!
First, a raw literal translation of chapter 21:
hole (opening) of virtue hold only (alone) way is from (ever, follow).
of way stands for things thought suddenly (seem) thought indistinct.
indistict suddenly (seem) its middle (center, core) have shape (image).
indistict suddenly its middle (center) have thing.
deep (quiet) dark (profound) its middle have extract (essence, perfect).
its extract extremely real (genuine; really; truly).
its middle have true (confidence; trust; evidence; letter).
self (certainly, from) its ancient reach (come up to, and) now (modern, present day),
its name (fame; reputation) not go (leave) use (because of) read (inspect, experience) many (crowd) just (only).
I who of know many just (only) of form (condition, account) (?!)
use ( take, according to) this.
And now to render it with some poetic license:
The opening to virtue always follows holding only to the way.
The way stands for: things of thought suddenly seem indistinct.
Thought suddenly seems its center has shape.
Indistinct suddenly seems its center has something.
Deep and dark, its center has an essence.
Its essence is extremely real. Its center has the evidence.
Its 'self' reaches from the ancient to the present,
Its reputation never leaves because it is experienced by all.
How do I know it is experienced by all?