Chapter of the Week: #80

"Whimsical" "question": "Considering" "the" "treachery" "of" "language", "do" "any" "of" "you" "get" "the" "urge" "to" "put" "every" "word" "in" "quotation" "marks"?

"The" "more" "I" "consider" "it", "the" "more" "accurate" "this" "seems".


  • edited September 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 80
    Reduce the size and population of the state. Ensure that even though the people have
    tools of war for a troop or a battalion they will not use them; and also that they will be
    reluctant to move to distant places because they look on death as no light matter.

    Even when they have ships and carts, they will have no use for them; and even
    when they have armour and weapons, they will have no occasion to make a show of them.

    Bring it about that the people will return to the use of the knotted rope,
    Will find relish in their food,
    And beauty in their clothes,
    Will be content in their abode,
    And happy in the way they live.

    Though adjoining states are within sight of one another, and the sound of dogs
    barking and cocks crowing in one state can be heard in another, yet the people
    of one state will grow old and die without having had any dealings with those of another.

    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.]

    This chapter addresses the problem a few folks back then (2500 B.C., or so) saw with civilization. Bring it about that the people will return to the use of the knotted rope speaks to the complications that the dawning of the iron age had brought to society – superior tools: ships, carts, weapons, armor and the promise even more clever [chref=16]innovations[/chref] to come. Boy, if they could see us now! :shock:

    Of course, we are never going to return to the use of the knotted rope or grow old and die without having had any dealings with folk in adjoining states. Nor ‘should’ we in my view. The thrust of this chapter is to point to the unintended consequences of what at first glance seems only beneficial – progress. Alas, all progress soon becomes ‘zeroed out’ . Any increase in the standard of living soon becomes our base-line standard – the minimum standard. Given this process, appreciation of what we have is replace by the clinging to what we have, and rising expectation for yet more. Given such a mindset, how can one ever [chref=33]know contentment[/chref]?

    Sure, this is only the hunter-gather instinct driving us to keep looking for that next tasty morsel. This instinct works great in the wild, but we are obviously a bit too clever for our own good. Now this basic instinct drives our push for ‘better’ food, clothes, lives, and __(you name it)___. In a exponential spiral of increasing change and ‘progress’ we are spin out of control. ‘[chref=65]The reason why the people are difficult to govern is that they are too clever[/chref]’ says volumes about how we govern our inner, personal life. Internal imbalance results in external actions which reflect that imbalance. The pendulum swings. [chref=2]Keeping to the deed that consists in taking no action and practicing the teaching that uses no words[/chref] is an approach to life that helps counter-balance that cleverness and the ensuing swing. Simply realizing the heart of what this chapter says is sufficient. No need to actually return to the use of the knotted rope. When I know that [chref=41]the way that leads forward seems to lead backward[/chref] it becomes much easier to let go of the promise of civilization's progress.

    It is little wonder the Taoist [chref=24]point of view[/chref] is a hard to swallow. It flies in the face of some of the most powerful survival instincts we inherit.

    The translation:
    Small country, few people.
    Enable the existence of various tools, yet never need them.
    Enable the people of death's importance, and not travel far.
    Although there exists boats and carriages, there is no place to ride them.
    Although there exists weapons, there is no place to display them.
    Enable the people to again use the knotted rope.
    Find their food sweet, their clothes beautiful.
    Peaceful in there lives, happy in their customs.
    Neighboring states gaze over to each other, hear the sound of chickens and dogs,
    People until death not come toward each other.

    And now the literal, character by character, original.
    small (little; minor) country (state, nation) few people.
    send (employ; enable) have (exist) assorted (varied) of eldest brother (uncle) tool (ware; capacity) yet not use.
    send (employ; enable) people weight (heavy; important; deep) death yet not far (distant) move.
    although have (exist) boat carriage (territory; public) nil (without) place of ride (avail oneself of).
    although have (exist) first (armor) weapons nil (without) place of lay out (put on display).
    send (employ; enable) people duplicate (recover; again) tie (knit; knot) rope yet of use.
    sweet their food, beautiful their clothes.
    peaceful (quiet; tranquil; calm) their dwell (live, residence) happy (enjoy) their custom (convention).
    neighbor (adjacent) country (state, nation) each other (mutually) gaze into the distance (look over),
    of chicken dog sound (voice; make a sound) each other (mutually) hear (news; story).
    people to (until; extremely; most) old (of long standing; tough; always) die (extremely; implacable)
    not each other (mutually) come (arrive) go (toward) come.
  • edited December 1969
    Wow! To know contentment in today's world is no easy task. I think one must experience when enough is enough! I guess some of us never reach that point in our lives, that is a very sad situation. :cry:
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