Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Lao Tzu's "Tao Te Ching Book One: The Book of Tao": A Summary

So, there's this force (not to be confused with The Force) that pervades and begets everything, and it has the really inconvenient property of being unnameable. I know, it's a bitch. We'll call it the Tao, except that naming it Tao doesn't tell us anything about it; it doesn't help us to know it. Oh yeah, it also has the property of being unknowable, which is just fucking super. If someone tells you they fully understand the Tao, they're lying, or they're wrong. Either way, they don't have the true Tao.

You know what is beautiful and light and big, which is also how you know what is ugly and dark and small. But while you're busy judging, consider how they came to be - what would be beautiful without ugliness? If everything was beautiful, would anything be beautiful? We all know people who walk around talking about how beautiful everything is, how we need to wake up and see the beauty all around us or some shit, but usually those people are ugly. That's not necessarily a bad thing; it's just not realistic to walk around pretending everything is beautiful all the time. Light and dark, big and small, same thing. These opposites are all part of the Tao, and he who wishes to know the Tao must embrace the dark as well as the light.



We all know bros are smart as shit, right? But we all know a really smart bro who knows exactly how much he doesn't know, and he's not afraid to say, "Oh. I'm not sure. Huh." And as much as we hate to admit when we don't know something, we fucking respect that bro for doing it. The Tao is unknowable; we all need to become that bro if we want to attain it. We all need to be willing to say, "The Tao? Yeah, I have no fucking clue." Otherwise, we'll never get any closer to it. If we pretend to know everything, how the fuck can we learn anything? You can't put shit in a jar that's already full; the emptiness is just as important to the jar as the shape. Our minds, same thing. We're after this ineffable, all-pervasive thing; you better believe we need some fucking room to hold it in the ol' noggin.

It's like that with everything. Good generals know how to use all their troops effectively; great generals can kick your ass with three swords, a ballpoint pen, and some down feather pillows. A good orator can talk for hours; a great orator says what he needs in ten words or less. So if we want to be smart, first we have to embrace our ignorance. If we want to be strong, first we have to embrace our weakness. If we want to move, first we have to learn to be still. 

A man who wishes to live by the Tao must embrace everything that they call 'bad' along with everything they call 'good'; he advances in his willingness to be still, and grows in his willingness to shrink. If we worry about shit, shit still happens. So stop worrying. The less we desire, the more easily those desires are fulfilled, so get over your petty wants. Your judgments are meaningless; you can't, by judging things, make or unmake things; everything that is, is, and there's nothing you can do to change that. You can't have the things you judge 'good' without their opposites existing, too; the only exception is the Tao, which embraces all. So must we.

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Want more? There are several versions freely available on Wikisource.

9 comments:

  1. Great post! Thanks for writing about the Tao bro!

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  2. Brilliant as always. Are you really sure that The Force and Tao isn't the same thing? It's hard not to read Tao Te Ching in Yoda's voice.

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  4. "A good orator can talk for hours; a great orator says what he needs in ten words or less."

    Philosphy Bro > Lao Tzu?

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  5. This is a really good distillation of what's going on in that book. As much as that book can be distilled, anyway. Thanks for this.

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  6. Love to see you do more Eastern philosophy bro. Good stuff.

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  7. Bro, thankyou so much. I'm doing a persuasive text on Laozi and Confucius in Enlgish, and this has made things much easier. I think the writing style is also a fantastic way to connect with a larger audience -most of whom would otherwise not bother. Keep it going.

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  8. Yo Bro this great stuff,The Ol'noggin gets it...

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