Books, Suffering, Uncategorized, Words of Wisdom

The Tao in These Times


img_5473I recently discovered a new translation/interpretation of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that struck me as particularly suited to the current era.   A central tenet of the Tao is that life works best when we allow ourselves to proceed “naturally,” so I was struck by the irony of William Martin’s title, The Activist’s Tao Te Ching, and my curiosity got the best of me!  With such a title, how would the author resolve the apparent juxtaposition between engaged passiveness and full-out activeness? Where would “natural movement” come in?  In a word, think “metamorphosis” or “transformation.”  Here is just a taste of Martin’s interpretation, from Verse 1.  (If you have a traditional translation, I encourage you to compare the two versions, side by side!)

Ideas, concepts and words
have separated us from life.
Masquerading as friends,
they have made us enemies
of each other.

Free of our own prejudices,
we act with spontaneity.
We move naturally.
We accomplish what is necessary.

Caught in our prejudices,
we act as puppets,
moving in lockstep
to the beat of commerce.

All emerges from the Tao,
all returns to the Tao in time.
Meanwhile darkness deepens,
bringing fear and despair.
Darkness faced, however,
opens into daylight.

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