“The Way begets them
Virtue keeps them
matter shapes them
usage completes them
thus do all creatures respect the Way
and honor Virtue
their respect for the Way
and honor of Virtue
are not conferred
but simply natural
for the Way begets and keeps them
raises and trains them
steadies and adjusts them
maintains and protects them
but it doesn’t possess what it begets
or depend on what it develops
or control what it raises
this is called Dark Virtue”
-Lao-tzu- (Taoteching, verse 51, translation by Red Pine)
WU CH’ENG says, “What is begotten is sprouted in spring; what is kept is collected in fall; what is shaped is raised in summer from sprouts grown in spring; what is completed is stored in winter from the harvest of fall. Sprouting, raising, harvesting, and storing all depend on the Way and Virtue. Hence, the ten thousand creatures respect the Tao as their father and honor Virtue as their mother. The Way and Virtue are two, but also one. In spring, from one root many are begotten: the Way becomes Virtue. In fall, the many are brought back together: Virtue becomes the Way. The Way and Virtue are mentioned at the beginning of this verse, but only the Way is mentioned later [in line eleven]. This is because Virtue is also the Way.”
LI HSI-CHAI says, ‘What the Way and Virtue bestow, they bestow without thought. No one orders them. It is simply their nature. It is their nature to beget and their nature to keep. It is their nature to raise and train, to steady and adjust, to maintain and protect. And because it’s their nature, they never tire of begetting or expect a reward for what they give. This is what is meant by ‘Dark Virtue.’”
LU HSI-SHENG says, “To beget is to endow with essence. To keep is to instill with breath. To raise is to adapt to form. To train is to bring forth ability. To steady is to weigh the end. To adjust is to measure the use. To maintain is to preserve the balance. To protect is to keep from harm. This is the Great Way. It begets but does not try to possess what it begets. It develops but does not depend on what it develops. It raises but does not try to control what it raises. This is Dark Virtue. In verse 10, Humankind is likened to the Way and Virtue. Here, the Way and Virtue are likened to Humankind. The expressions are the same, and so is the meaning.”
HO-SHANG KUNG says, “The Way does not beget the myriad creatures to possess them for its own advantage. The actions of the Way do not depend on a reward. And the Way does not raise or maintain the myriad creatures to butcher them for profit. The kindness performed by the Way is dark and invisible.” Where Ho-shang Kung reads “butcher,” Lu Hsi-sheng reads “control.” Red Pine followed Lu.
WANG PI says, “The Way is what things follow. Virtue is what they attain. ‘Dark Virtue’ means virtue is present but no one knows who controls it. It comes from what is hidden.”
As I am writing my commentary on today’s verse, on a schedule some two weeks ahead of when it will post, I am still reeling from the events of the previous weekend, where my friends and family on Facebook have been quite vocal in lambasting NFL players for taking a knee during the National Anthem, and so, according to them, disrespecting and dishonoring the flag, the country, and the men and women who have served in the armed forces. How timely, then, was it for me to come to today’s verse where Lao-tzu talks about what he calls “Dark Virtue,” where he talks of a respect and honor which is not conferred, but simply natural.
I have refrained, so far, from responding, though I have been thinking all along of some previous verses in the Taoteching, where Lao-tzu talked of the virtue of ritual. Ritual, you may recall, if you have been an avid reader of my posts, is one of the lower virtues Lao-tzu talks about. I don’t have much use for it, actually. But, it certainly does represent what I have witnessed on Facebook the last several days. This is the virtue, that when it doesn’t get the expected response, rolls up its sleeves and resorts to force.
Rather than this “light virtue” that wants to be seen, Lao-tzu is much more interested in Dark Virtue. One that is hidden. Dark and invisible. It isn’t ordered or controlled. And it doesn’t force or try to control. It isn’t conferred. It is simply natural.
Doing what is according to your nature. Natural. Up until this past weekend I actually thought that kneeling was a sign of respect and honor. Now I am being expected to believe it is a sign of dishonor and disrespect. And our Republican President Donald Trump tweeted that it was time football fans act. Interesting. That is why I thought it was also timely that I came across a certain quote by Albert Jay Nock, just before I began typing up this commentary:
“Republicanism permits the individual to persuade himself that the State is his creation, that State action is his action, that when it expresses itself it expresses him, and when it is glorified he is glorified. The republican State encourages this persuasion with all its power, aware that it is the most efficient instrument for enhancing its own prestige. Lincoln’s phrase, “of the people, by the people, for the people” was probably the most effective single stroke of propaganda ever made in behalf of republican State prestige.”
Yes, I think that quote taken from Nock’s Our Enemy, the State, is particularly apt for the moment. And, I must add how disheartened I am by the number of Christians (since I was raised Christian) who have posted things like “I stand for the flag, I kneel at the cross.” Really? Whatever happened to “Thou shalt have no other Gods”?
But, then, I must admit I knew the Church was in great distress when I first noticed the U.S. Flag being included center stage along with the Christian Flag (naturally) with an altar between them.
I apologize if any of you think I am a bit off topic with today’s commentary. It is just that sometimes current events are so telling. I will attempt to get back on topic with tomorrow’s verse.