“Get rid of wisdom and reason
and people will live a hundred times better
get rid of kindness and justice
and people once more will love and obey
get rid of cleverness and profit
and thieves will cease to exist
but these three sayings are incomplete
hence let these be added
display the undyed and preserve the uncarved
reduce self-interest and limit desires”
(Taoteching, verse 19, translation by Red Pine)
HO-SHANG KUNG says, “Get rid of the works of wisdom and reason and return to the primeval. The symbols and letters created by the Five Emperors were not as effective in ruling the kingdom as the simple knots used earlier by the Three Sovereigns.”
TE-CH’ING says, “This is what Chuang-tzu meant when he said, ‘Tigers and wolves are kind.’ Tigers and wolves possess innate love and obedience that don’t require instruction. How much more should Humankind, the most intelligent of creatures, possess these.”
WANG CHEN says, “Put an end to wisdom that leaves tracks and reason that deceives, and people will benefit greatly. Put an end to condescending kindness and treacherous justice, and relatives will come together on their own and will once more love and obey. Put an end to excessive cleverness and personal profit, and armies will no longer appear. And when armies no longer appear, thieves will cease to exist.”
HSUAN-TSUNG says, “These three only help us get rid of things. They don’t explain cultivation. Hence, they are incomplete.”
WANG PI says, “Wisdom and reason are the pinnacle of ability. Kindness and justice are the acme of behavior. Cleverness and profit are the height of practice. To tell us simply to get rid of them would be inappropriate and wouldn’t make sense without giving us something else. Hence, we are told to focus on the undyed and the uncarved.”
CHIAO HUNG says, “The ways of the world become daily more artificial. Hence, we have names like wisdom and reason, kindness and justice, cleverness and profit. Those who understand the Tao see how artificial these are and how inappropriate they are in ruling the world. They aren’t as good as getting people to focus their attention on undyed cloth and uncarved wood. By displaying what is undyed and preserving what is uncarved, our self-interest and desires wane. The undyed and the uncarved refer to our original nature.”
LIU CHING says, “‘Undyed’ means unstained by anything else and thus free of wisdom and reason. ‘Uncarved’ means complete in itself and thus free of kindness and justice. ‘Self-interest’ concerns oneself. And ‘desires’ concern others. As they diminish, so do cleverness and profit.”
SU CH’E says, “Confucius relied on kindness and justice, ritual and music to order the kingdom. Lao-tzu’s only concern was to open people’s minds, which he accomplished through the use of metaphor. Some people, though, have used his metaphors to create disorder, while no great problems have been caused by the followers of Confucius.”
And RED PINE adds, “Get rid of sayings, and people will be their own sages.”
Oh Su Ch’e, what is that you say, Su Ch’e? Su Ch’e is concerned that maybe Lao-tzu goes a bit far. He prefers Confucius’ order, to Lao-tzu’s disorder. But, as I was saying in yesterday’s commentary, I think chaos can serve a greater purpose. As Red Pine says in his commentary, “Get rid of sayings (what Confucius is most famous for), and people will be their own sages.” I can already hear the naysayers: “But people can’t be trusted.” I think that was Su Ch’e’s fear.
Folks, this is serious. And, believe me, I am taking it seriously. And I want you to, too. I don’t want chaos anymore than the rest of you. Disorder is so untidy. It will be ugly. Things are going to be bad. But, do we have a choice? Honestly, I don’t think so.
So many things to get rid of. Anything artificial. That is really all the problems in the world wrapped up in one word. There is too much that is artificial. We keep manufacturing more of the artificial each and every day. And I hope you are understanding what I am meaning by artificial, here. I am talking about our kindness and justice, our love and obedience, our cleverness and profit. None of these things are natural. They aren’t honest. We aren’t being honest with ourselves. So, we are deceiving ourselves.
We need to stop that. We need to throw all of the artificial away. They were only fit for the dung pile, anyway.
But what are going to replace them with? Well, of course, someone was going to ask that. That is what us anarchists are always hit with. Anytime we argue in favor of getting the government out of the “meddling in our business” business, someone says, “But, what are you going to replace it with?”
And, if we anarchists are on our game, we will be honest and say, “Why, of course, this is incomplete. There will be much to add.”
Lao-tzu does, too!
So, what do we replace the artificial with? The natural, of course. Leave behind self-interest and desires, go back to your original nature.