Chapter 7: Humility

Heaven and Earth are eternal and everlasting because they do not live for or by themselves.

The perfect Sage puts his own interests last, and because of this unselfish way of being is always the leader of his people.

Because the Sage is looking after the welfare of his people, He preserves his own life essence.

Is it not because he is disinterested that his own interests are conserved?

One need only look to Catholicism to see that people must be dead to become Saints, gifted with the same kind of immortality on earth as that religion’s savior, such that people pray to them. Yet the changes they made in the world are still very real and visible and lasting.

What matters is the goodness that was done and that it was, in fact, done – not who did it, because the goodness lives on eternally.

Chapter 6: The Infinite God-Cunt

Primal, feminine, valley spirit, that never dies,
you are “the Mysterious One,” another empty vessel we seek to understand (and thus, in our human folly, attempt to control).

Your gates within, from which at first we all issue forth,
are called “the root from which Heaven and Earth were derived.”

Source of life that issues forth endlessly and continuously,
you constantly give birth because God is life.

Chapter 5: Impartiality

The Heavens and the Earth move through time and space with no regard for any human being. They are truly impartial.

Some would say it’s because they are on their own path.

Heck, nowadays we’ve got folks who could show us their paths, and even chart a course to predict where they will head in the future! They’re called Astronomers.

If you want to live wisely, like the sage, you’ve got to be impartial.

For the wise know that all people are alike (Or as one of my favorite comedians of all times, Mo Alexander, put it, “We are all WalMart shoppers!”) and are equally unimportant in the grand scheme of, well, all of existence.

There are a lot of gossips in this world who fill the void between heaven and earth with hot air and chatter, bantering back and forth about what other folks have done.

It’s awful tough to be impartial when you’re busy talkin’ shit.

Chapter 4: God’s Infinite Nature

God is an empty vessel, containing the entirety of existence.

Life is the same way, empty of innate meaning so we can fill it with our ideas of what it ought to be: what life means to us.

There is an intense yearning within the Godly to blunt the sharpness of swords, untangle the knots that bind both us and others, and soften the glare of our enemies, despite the knowledge that we will all merge with the dust one day.

And probably so will God, even though He’s the life-container.

Because eventually, (as terrible as it is to think about it) there will be no life. Even the infinite loop goes through cycles.

Phoenixes have to perish to be reborn.

Chapter 3: Getting People To Shut The Fuck Up

When people do truly great things and it goes unnoticed, fewer people bother to expend their energy and to rise to the occasion to achieve greatness.

I mean, what’s their motivation?

Just like your complete ignorance in not realizing that the old vase your Granny gave you is several centuries old allows you use it to hold flowers and not worry about it being stolen (Hey, you didn’t even know it was worth thousands of dollars and should be taken on Antiques Roadshow before you started reading this poem! You were just using it as a vase!), avoiding, being ignorant of, or choosing to limit yourself from the activities and substances that awaken unnecessary upset within you will keep you happier.

Therefore, anyone who is wise and trying to be in control of their government will not waste anybody’s time, but just satisfy them. If it’s what the people really want, the wise ruler will say it loud, “I’m Black, and I’m Proud!” give them the Hawaiian birth certificate, and tell all the haters to all take a big ole whiff, because, baby, he’s the SHIT.

But, the wise ruler, at least according to the writings of the Tao, seeks to control his people by keeping most of the public in blissful ignorance of greater affairs of state most of the time, and the very few folks who are actually “in-the-know” – well, they need to be on the side of good (not evil).

The wise ruler, most of all, must practice absolute restraint, himself, in everything. He’s got to be genuine in appearance and reality: something that is achievable but better than most people ever expect of themselves.

Then, and only then will people shut the fuck up…

Chapter 2: Self Development

Everyone and anyone has their own opinion about what’s beautiful, and because of this, they have their idea about what is ugly.

They all can recognize the skillful from those who don’t have what it takes to get the job done, regardless of what the job is.

That’s how existence and non-existence work:
you are either here, or you’re not. Binary.

Just as difficulty and ease, length and shortness, highness and lowness are all spectrum comparisons that would be meaningless without each pole, music seeks in its way to show us by use of harmonies (and thus sometimes dissonance and melody) that we relate information to each other through points in time, both before we were born and well after we are gone.

The sage teaches us best how to manage our affairs by simply living and allowing others to bear witness.

Life, when you’re doing it like the sage, can be described like work-for-hire employment in the entertainment industry.

There will always be a ton of different projects out there looking for people to work on them, as well as something fun going on, somewhere, that is unexpected. If it’s not one thing, it’s another.

Just because you create something does not mean you own it or that you are going to get credit for it, nor should you expect it.

You just get your work done, and you do it well, your way, without expecting a ticker tape parade for the job you volunteered to do.

And, lookie there! The work got done! You are a part of history.

But there’s no resting on your laurels. Damn near everybody wants to work in the industry.

Nobody’s gonna remember the project you just worked on…

And so, it’s time to find something new.

Otherwise how are you going to pay the rent? Or stave off boredom?

Because the sage can show where he’s made his mark, here and there, he knows he’s only a part of a bigger picture, and because of that, the changes he’s made are profound and eternal.

It’s only by being part of something larger than yourself that you find happiness, because in doing so, you realize that your part is essential. The same is true of your existence within the world.

And you fulfill the role simply by living.

The Tao of Rae: Chapter 1

Speak a concept in your own words, and you know that you know it.

I’ve been reading other people’s translation of an ancient poem on how to live your own path on and off for years now, and each time I have devoted myself to it, for any amount of time, it has brought me closer to peace. I think perhaps there have been too many times where I have read it and not understood it, or not contemplated it hard enough – not taken the meaning in and actually gotten the lesson.

One of the beautiful things about The Tao de Ching is that there are so many people who have gone about trying to explain the concepts in the original poem, and through that, you can see the myriad ideas that were originally in there only if you are willing to read several different translations. Some of them are really funny. 🙂 Heck, if you’re looking for 2 good translations to go along with mine, I wholeheartedly recommend adding the daily_tao community as a friend here on LJ. They post from the Fortune files, the Beatrice Tao, and The Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu (The Witter Bynner version), Terebess Asia Online (TAO).

I figure that since there are more than 300 translations out there anyway, I’m not dishonoring anyone by throwing my hat in the ring.

Here are some of my favorite Chapter 1 Translations, and then my own.

Chapter 1: Translated by James Legge (1891)

The Tao that can be trodden is not the enduring and unchanging Tao.
The name that can be named is not the enduring and unchanging name.

(Conceived of as) having no name, it is the Originator of heaven and earth;
(conceived of as) having a name, it is the Mother of all things.

Always without desire we must be found,
If its deep mystery we would sound;
But if desire always within us be,
Its outer fringe is all that we shall see.

Under these two aspects, it is really the same; but as development takes place, it receives the different names. Together we call them the Mystery. Where the Mystery is the deepest is the gate of all that is subtle and wonderful.

Chapter 1: Translated by G.G. Alexander (1895)

God (the great everlasting infinite First Cause from whom all things in heaven and earth proceed) can neither be defined nor named.

For the God which can be defined or named is but the Creator, the Great Mother of all those things of which our senses have cognisance.

Now he who would gain a knowledge of the nature and attributes of the nameless and undefinable God, must first set himself free from all earthly desires, for unless he can do this, he will be unable to penetrate the material veil which interposes between him and those spiritual conditions into which he would obtain an insight.

Yet the spiritual and the material, though known to us under different names, are similar in origin, and issue from the same source, and the same obscurity belongs to both, for deep indeed is the darkness which enshrouds the portals through which we have to pass, in order to gain a knowledge of these mysteries.

Chapter 1:Translated by Dwight Goddard (1919)

The Tao that can be understood cannot be the primal, or cosmic, Tao, just as an idea that can be expressed in words cannot be the infinite idea.

And yet this ineffable Tao was the source of all spirit and matter, and being expressed was the mother of all created things.

Therefore not to desire the things of sense is to know the freedom of spirituality; and to desire is to learn the limitation of matter. These two things spirit and matter, so different in nature, have the same origin. This unity of origin is the mystery of mysteries, but it is the gateway to spirituality.

Chapter 1:Translated by Rachael Majka (2011)

The truth of God’s existence is absolutely not provable to humans.
If it were provable, it wouldn’t be Godly. We’d call it science.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not there.
I mean, look at the world around you. Look at yourself. Boom. Proof!

Once there was absolutely nothing. Then there was something.
Nothing and something are two sides of the same coin.

You have to have a vessel to hold the nothing in.
So, when you go to God (or the Tao – same thing, really), don’t go looking for something in particular, or you’ll find nothing.

God’s way is simply to exist and to allow folks like us to overthink.