A Confirmation of the Wisdom of the Wise

When a superior man hears of the Tao,
he immediately begins to embody it.
When an average man hears of the Tao,
he half believes it, half doubts it.
When a foolish man hears of the Tao,
he laughs out loud.
If he didn’t laugh,
it wouldn’t be the Tao.

Thus it is said:
The path into the light seems dark,
the path forward seems to go back,
the direct path seems long,
true power seems weak,
true purity seems tarnished,
true steadfastness seems changeable,
true clarity seems obscure,
the greatest art seems unsophisticated,
the greatest love seems indifferent,
the greatest wisdom seems childish.

The Tao is nowhere to be found.
Yet it nourishes and completes all things.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 41, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

A Confirmation of the Wisdom of the Wise

What makes the superior person, superior? What makes the average person, average? What makes the foolish person, foolish? Beware of those who think of themselves as superior; more often than not, they are found to be fools.

The Tao is nowhere to be found.

This is what trips up everyone, but the truly wise. The truly wise perceive how it nourishes and completes all things. And so, immediately begin to embody it. They aren’t swayed by appearances, by the way things seem to be. They look into the depths, rather than stopping at the surface. Instead of being mesmerized by the flower, they partake of the fruit.

The average person can half-believe. But, why is this path so dark? Why do I seem to be going backwards? Why is this taking so long? It seems weak. It seems tarnished. It seems changeable. It just isn’t clear enough. Why is it so obscure? See how doubt seeps in?

To the fool, the greatest art seems unsophisticated, the greatest love seems indifferent, the greatest wisdom seems childish. No wonder they laugh out loud.

And, that laughter may add to the doubts the average person entertains. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. Consider the laughter of the fool a confirmation of the wisdom of the wise. And, believe.

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