“What you would shorten
you first should lengthen
what you would weaken
you first should strengthen
what you would topple
you first should raise
what you would take
you first should give
this is called hiding the light
the weak conquering the strong
fish can’t survive out of the depths
a state’s greatest weapon
isn’t meant to be shown”
(Taoteching, verse 36, translation by Red Pine)
TE-CH’ING says, “Once things reach their limit, they go the other way. Hence, lengthening is a portent of shortening. Strengthening is the onset of weakening. Raising is the beginning of toppling. Giving is the start of taking. This is the natural order for Heaven as well as for Humankind. Thus, to hide the light means the weak conquer the strong. Weakness is the greatest weapon of the state. But rulers must no show it to their people. Deep water is the best place for a fish. But once it is exposed to the air, a fish is completely helpless. And once rulers show weakness, they attract enemies and shame.”
LU HUI-CH’ING SAYS, “To perceive shortening in lengthening, weakening in strengthening, toppling in raising, taking in giving, how could anyone do this if not through the deepest insight? This is the hidden light. Moreover, what causes things to be shortened or lengthened, weakened or strengthened, toppled or raised, taken or given is invisible and weak. While what is shortened or lengthened, weakened or strengthened, taken or given is visible and strong. Thus, the weak conquer the strong. People should not abandon weakness, just as fish should not leave the depths. When fish leave the depths, they are caught. When people abandon weakness, they join the league of the dead.”
WU CH’ENG says, “Hiding the light’ is the same as ‘cloaking the light.’” (See verse 27.).
SUNG CH’ANG-HSING say, “According to the way of the world, the weak don’t conquer the strong. But Lao-tzu’s point is that the weak, can conquer the strong by letting the strong do what they want until they become exhausted and thus weak. Those who cultivate the Tao speak softly and act with care. They don’t argue about right or wrong, better or worse. They understand the harmony of Heaven and Earth, the Way of emptiness and stillness, and become adept at using the hidden light.”
CHANG TAO-LING says, “The Tao is like water. People are like fish.”
CHUANG-TZU says, “The sage is the world’s greatest weapon but not one that is known to the world” (Chuangtzu: 10.3).
HAN FEI says, “Rewards and punishments are the state’s greatest weapon.”
What is the state’s greatest weapon? Is it their strength? Is it fear? The world thinks so. But, I think Lao-tzu is on to something, here. They don’t realize their greatest weapon; for if they did, how very different things would be. Red Pine notes, at the conclusion of the commentaries, that “the strong still rule the day.” But, weakness will conquer strength. It is only a matter of time. It is nature’s way.
Things wax, and then they wane. This might not be something my fellow libertarians want to hear. After all, we are ready to see it wane. We are ready for the State to topple. It will, my friends. As Lao-tzu said elsewhere, “Tyrants never choose their death” (Taoteching 42.). And, the way to hasten it is to let them exhaust themselves. They will succumb to weakness. It is nature’s way. Slower than we may like. But, painfully efficient. I grew up in the Bible Belt, and we heard a lot about not hiding your light under a bushel. But, this is one light we need to hide.