Tao Te Ching by Laozi (老子)

Tao Te Ching by Laozi

Taoist philosophy to the tune of Classical Chinese symbols? Artistic delights and a sense of harmony abound here. Tao Te Ching is a legendary tome by the sage Laozi (which is often spelled in many different ways).

Heavily steeped in Confucianism and Chinese Buddhism, the work is the most translated in the world (after the Bible). And it’s basically about creating for yourself a life of compassion, peace, and serenity. Innit.

Taoist Harmony in Tao Te Ching

That which offers no resistance,
overcomes the hardest substances.
That which offers no resistance,
can enter where there is no space.

Few in the world can comprehend
the teaching without words, or
understand the value of non-action.

Words from chapter 43 of Tao Te Ching. Although there’s no proof Laozi (or Lao-Tzu) actually ever lived, the Taoist principles preached in his work are all about us today (at least in Eastern cultures).

One of the central principles of Tao Te Ching (a masterpiece of Classical Chinese literature) is wu wei (無為). It means “inexertion” or “effortless action”.

Like crossing a winter stream.
Like respecting one’s neighbours.
Like a guest.
Like ice about to melt.
Like uncarved wood.
Like a valley.
Mixing freely,
Like muddy water.

Calm the muddy water,
It becomes clear.
Move the inert,
It comes to life.

These ancient texts have a lot of familiarity about them. The Pillow Book by Sei Shōnagon is from the Heian period of Japan (794-1185). So long ago, yet packed with wise, worldly observations that display aeons may have passed. But we’re all still distinctly human.

But more recent tomes channel tthis idealised sense of harmony, such as with our often referenced In Praise of Shadows by Tanizaki.

Tao Te Ching is, essentially, an ode to harmony.

It may be very old (and no one knows much about its author), but there’s a very real humanity in this little book of haiku. And it makes far more sense than some of the nonsense around in the world today—the manic focus on getting rich as the cure-all to your problems.

However, we must note on this text is has a long history of updates.

Manuscripts date back two millennia, written on bamboo, silk, and paper. These were discovered in the 20th century. It’s even debated if Laozi existed.

We have a kind of Beowulf mystery work here, which may (or may not) bear some resemblance to its original form a very long time ago.

The work has a flow to it, which is what you’d expect from Taoism—it is the philosophy of flow. As this gentleman can explain better than us idiots can.

Tao Te Ching is packed with golden nuggets of sage advice. The likes of:

I have three treasures,
To maintain and conserve:
The first is compassion.
The second is frugality.
The third is not presuming.
To be first under heaven.

Compassion leads to courage.
Frugality allows generosity.
Not presuming to be first.
Creates a lasting instrument.

The work has been translated into over 250 languages and now is something of a harmonic mantra for many people around the world.

Whether its modern adaptations remain truthful to what the author intended with this 2,400 years ago we’re never likely to know. But modern reviews (ancient wisdom for modern times) nudge towards why it’s important to take note of works like this:

“The Tao Te Ching is a 2,400-year-old reminder that today, as then, every one of us has a choice to practise self-awareness and exercise our own power in and over the world. That might come as more of a nasty wakeup call than a comfort to some of us. As [novelist David Foster Wallace] said: ‘It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive in the adult world day in and day out.’ As hard as it is, for the moments we read it, the Tao Te Ching makes it seem at least possible.”

Anyway, read the tome if you fancy some form of enlightenment. It’s kind of an antidote to the nature of modern capitalism and its focus on mindless individualism.

And this is why we’ve decided to start charging you all $5 to read Professional Moron each and every day. Compassion (or something).

Dispense with some gibberish!

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