Chapter of the Week: #73



  • edited July 2008
    Each week we address one chapter of the Tao Te Ching. The Tao Te Ching can be obscure, especially if you think you're supposed to understand what it's saying! We find it easier and more instructive to simply contemplate how the chapter resonates with your personal experience. Becoming more aware at this fundamental level simplifies life. This approach conforms to the view that true knowing lies within ourselves. Thus, when a passage in the scripture resonates, you've found your inner truth. The same applies for when it evokes a question; questions are the grist for self realization.

    Chapter 73
    He who is fearless in being bold will meet with his death;
    He who is fearless in being timid will stay alive.
    Of the two, one leads to good, the other to harm.

    Heaven hates what it hates,
    Who knows the reason why?

    Therefore even the sage treats some things as difficult.

    The way of heaven
    Excels in overcoming though it does not contend,
    In responding though it does not speak,
    In attracting though it does not summon,
    In laying plans though it appears slack.

    The net of heaven is cast wide. Though the mesh is not fine, yet nothing ever
    slips through.

    Read commentary previously posted for this chapter.
    Read notes on translations
    Now, do it too at Wengu!
  • edited December 1969
    [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.]

    Fear, and its milder cousin insecurity, are instincts that drive timidity. And so, fearless in being timid sounds like an oxymoron at first glance. Ah yes, [chref=78]straightforward words seem paradoxical.[/chref] The paradox disappears when I think of fearless in being timid as simply being patient. Deliberately waiting is high on my list of some things to treat as difficult.

    To be honest though, ‘fear’ is still a necessary ingredient in this, like the ‘fear’ involved in being [chref=15]tentative, as if fording a river in winter, hesitant, as if in fear of his neighbors.[/chref] Fear is the essence of life. Fearlessness is how we live life to the fullest. Fearless in being timid is [chref=32]knowing when to stop [/chref] and allow things to happen [chref=17]naturally[/chref]. Balancing between the two 'fears' is precarious; how to know where one begins and the other ends? Being [chref=10]capable of not knowing anything[/chref] sure helps! Why? Only then do I watch carefully enough.

    Fear plays a role in both approaches. The difference, as I see it, is that Fearless in being bold is driven by [chref=50]setting to much store by life[/chref]. Whenever I set too much store by life, it [chref=44]is sure to end in immense loss[/chref], to one degree or another. Fearless in being timid, on the other hand, has never let me down. Having [chref=23]enough faith[/chref] in Nature’s way to ‘wait and watch’ is the [chref=71]difficulty[/chref].

    Oh, and I found these to be invaluable tips for raising my children: Excelling in overcoming through not contending, In responding through not speaking, In attracting through not summoning, In laying plans through slacking. [chref=65]Hoodwinking[/chref] indeed! It is odd how the simplest and most effective (elegant) solutions are among the most difficult to implement. That’s cosmic justice for you.

    First, pared down to the more or less readable version:
    Brave in bold rules killing
    Brave in not bold rules living
    These both either benefit or harm
    Nature's place is fierce, who knows its cause.
    Nature's way doesn't contend, yet is adept in victory.
    No words, yet adept in answering
    No calling together, yet on one's own arrives.
    Simple, yet adept in planning
    Nature's net is vast and thin, yet it never fails.

    Now, enjoy some mental stretching with the literal and its synonyms:
    brave in (at, to, from, by) bold standard (norm; rule; imitate; follow) kill (weaken).
    brave in (at, to, from, by) not bold standard (norm; rule; imitate; follow) live (alive; save)
    this both perhaps (or; either...or..) favorable (sharp, advantage) perhaps (or; either...or..) evil (injurious, feel ashamed).
    of sky (heaven; day; weather; nature; God) place fierce (ferocious) who knows its (that, such) reason (cause, incident).
    of sky (heaven; day; weather; nature; God) way not contend (strive) yet good (be adept in) victory (success; surpass).
    not speech (word; say; talk; speak)yet yet good (be adept in) answer (respond; should; ought to).
    not call together (convene; summon) yet self (one's own; certainly; from; since) come (arrive; crop up; take place).
    single (odd; only; alone; simple; weak) yet (but; however) good (perfect; be adept in) stratagem (plan; scheme; plot).
    sky (heaven; day; weather; nature; God) net (network; catch with a net) extensive (vast) dredge (thin; sparse; distant) yet not lose (miss; let slip; fail).
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