“True words aren’t beautiful
beautiful words aren’t true
the good aren’t eloquent
the eloquent aren’t good
the wise aren’t learned
the learned aren’t wise
sages accumulate nothing
but the more they do for others
the greater their existence
the more they give to others
the greater their abundance
the Way of Heaven
is to help without harming
the Way of the Sage
is to act without struggling”
(Taoteching, verse 81, translation by Red Pine)
HUANG-TI says, “There’s a word for everything. Words that are harmful we say aren’t true” (Chingfa: 2).
TE-CH’ING says, “At the beginning of this book, Lao-tzu says the Tao can’t be put into words. But are its 5,000-odd characters not words? Lao-tzu waits until the last verse to explain this. He tells us that though the Tao itself includes no words, by means of words it can be revealed – but only by words that come from the heart.”
SU CH’E says, “What is true is real but nothing more. Hence, it isn’t beautiful. What is beautiful is pleasing to look at but nothing more. Hence, it isn’t true. Those who focus on goodness don’t try to be eloquent. And those who focus on eloquence aren’t good. Those who have one thing that links everything together have no need of learning. Those who keep learning don’t understand the Tao. The sage holds on to the one and accumulates nothing.”
HO-SHANG KUNG says, “True words are simple and not beautiful. The good cultivate the Tao, not the arts. The wise know the Tao, not information. Sages accumulate virtue, not wealth. They give their wealth to the poor and use their virtue to teach the unwise. And like the sun or moon, they never stop shining.”
CHUANG-TZU says, “When Lao Tan and Yin Hsi heard of people who considered accumulation as deficiency, they were delighted” (Chuangtzu: 33.5). Lao Tan was Lao-tzu’s name, and Yin Hsi was the man to whom he transmitted the Taoteching.
SUNG CH’ANG-HSING says, “People only worry that their own existence and abudnance are insufficient. They don’t realize that helping and giving to others doe them no harm but benefits themselves instead.”
TS’AO TAO-CH’UNG says, “The wealth that comes from giving generously is inexhaustible. The power that arises from not accumulating is boundless.”
WU CH’ENG says, “Help is the opposite of harm. Wherever there is help, there must be harm. But when Heaven helps, it doesn’t harm, because it helps without helping. Action is the start of struggle. Wherever there is action, there must be struggle. But when sages act, they don’t struggle, because they act without acting.”
CHIAO HUNG says, “The previous 5,000 words all explain ‘the Tao of not accumulating,’ what Buddhists call ‘non-attachment.’ Those who empty their mind on the last two lines will grasp most of Lao-tzu’s text.”
WANG CHEN says, “The last line summarizes the entire 5,000 words of the previous eighty verses. It doesn’t focus on action or inaction but simply on action that doesn’t involve struggle.”
And RED PINE concludes, “At the beginning and at the end of the Taoteching, Lao-tzu reminds us not to become attached to the words. Let the words go. Have a cup of tea.”
So, we come to the end of another cycle through the Taoteching. If I counted correctly, this makes a total of twenty-one times I have gone through these verses, adding my own commentary. It has been great! I have learned so much since I started doing this in 2012. I think my writing has improved quite a bit, too. And I want to thank each one of you who have taken this journey with me. Some of you have been there from the very beginning with me. Again, thank you all so much!
But, as someone has said before, everything which has a beginning, has an end. And, I have decided, this is a good time to call it the end. I am grateful for the discipline it required of me to do these daily blog posts. Sometimes, I will admit to you, I didn’t feel like talking about the particular verse whose time had come for me to talk about. But, like it or not, I trudged onward. And I can’t say I didn’t benefit from doing this.
However, while I could continue to do this for many moons to come, I am feeling a call to devote time I have been spending on tackling these verses fresh each day, to writing on other things. I have wanted to write on a variety of topics over the years, but never quite had the time. Part of that lack of time is due to spending so much of my time just keeping up with these commentaries. There are so many things going on in the world, so many opportunities where a libertariantaoist viewpoint would be nice to share. And while I do put little tidbits of contemporary events in my blog posts, so many times, they just aren’t compatible with the verse for that day. Or even if they are, I am writing these commentaries days, even weeks in advance, and by the time they post, it is old news.
I am constantly being challenged by not having enough hours in each day. I am cursed by needing 8 hours of sleep every night. I hate it. Really. But I can’t function without it. And that means the time I am awake is very precious to me. I can’t read all I want to read. Nor listen to all the podcasts. Nor write.
Being challenged like this, I have to economize. I have to figure out the best uses of my time, so I can spend the little time I have, doing what I truly love. That is the reason I am ending this practice of taking a verse a day of the Taoteching. It doesn’t mean I won’t be blogging any more. You won’t get rid of me that easily. But I don’t expect to be posting daily any longer. What I want to do is spend more of my time reading, and writing. And hopefully, I will have something to say worth saying, one to two times a week. No, that isn’t as often as every day. But, as I have already said, I have been feeling myself in a time crunch.
I won’t leave the Taoteching behind. I still have plenty to learn from Lao-tzu. I haven’t reached “Master” level, yet. But I hope I have learned some lessons which will serve me well as I start writing about different things. I hope I have learned, “True words aren’t beautiful and beautiful words aren’t true.” And, “The good aren’t eloquent and the eloquent aren’t good.” And, “The wise aren’t learned and the learned aren’t wise.” These are good lessons to keep me from wandering too far astray.
But I think some of the most important lessons I have learned, on multiple journeys through the Taoteching, are lessons on how to help without harming, and how to act without struggling. What that means for me, and my future blog posts, is you will continue to get a libertariantaoist perspective in everything I write. I will continue to champion non-aggression and non-intervention.
I was talking to a friend earlier today, and he was concerned about Trump meeting with Kim Jong-un. He doesn’t trust that Trump won’t screw things up. I understand that fear. What I told him is what I want out of our foreign policy. That we would pull our troops off the Korean peninsula and let South and North Korea settle their differences on their own. He said if that would happen, the North would immediately invade the South, with China backing them up. While I don’t know whether or not that would be true, my reply is the same: Why is that our concern? America thinks it needs to have its fingers meddling in everybody’s business as if it were our business. It isn’t. It wasn’t back in the 1950’s when we backed the South against the North in Korea. And it isn’t any of our business today. As far as I am concerned, our foreign policy is giving our enemies exactly what they want. They want us meddling all over the world, because they know it will eventually bankrupt us, and then we won’t be around to meddle anymore.
See, these are the things I would like to be talking about, writing about, and it should be obvious, I can hardly wait to get started. But first I have to finish today’s verse. And you know what? I think I am done.