Friday, March 22, 2013

Inspired by Tao Te Ching - chapter 19


絕聖棄智,民利百倍;絕仁棄義,民復孝慈;絕巧棄利,盜賊無有;此三者,以為文不足。故令有所屬,見素抱樸, 少私寡欲。

My translation of Chapter 19 of Tao Te Ching:

No sages and no wise men,
people benefit a hundred fold more;
No benevolence and no virtuousness,
people revert to filial piety and compassion;
No skills and no profit,
no theft and no robbery;
These three (Paul: sages [and wise men], benevolence [and virtuousness], filial piey[and compassion]) do not denote good ruling;
Instead we need to see
whether people
dress plainly and embrace simplicity;
have little private property and limited desire.

Paul's inspiration: Laozi again played on words here. He wanted to shock people with interpretation like: Sages and wise men (etc) are the causes of evil in society! His observation is keen and his arguments are fine. In essence, he is saying when a society is not healthy, there will be sages and wise men (etc) and when it is healthy, people will have limited (unsatisfied) desire. Reading this chapter together with chapter 18 makes a lot of sense.

Having said that I have to admit that this is only one of the many (unlimited) interpretations of this chapter (and Tao Te Ching itself). Oftentimes, these interpretations reflect the personality of each interpreter, more than anything else. Mine is of course no exception. I pleaded guilty.

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