My favourite translation of the Tao Te Ching is by Stephen Mitchell (Harper & Row, 1988). He comes closer to colloquial expression and what I imagine the old Chinese sage must have sounded like - sometimes irreverent. Like in the following entry, #20:
Stop thinking, and end your problems.
What difference between yes and no?
What difference between success and failure?
Must you value what others value,
Avoid what others avoid?
Other people are excited,
As though they were at a parade.
I alone don’t care.
I alone am expressionless,
Like an infant before it can smile.
Other people have what they need;
I alone possess nothing.
I alone drift about,
Like someone without a home.
I am like an idiot, my mind is so empty.
Other people are bright;
I alone am dark.
Other people are sharp;
I alone am dull.
Other people have a purpose;
I alone don’t know.
I drift like a wave on the ocean,
I blow as aimless as the wind.
I am different from ordinary people.
I drink from the Great Mother’s breasts.
Isn't that great?
I love this entry! It makes me feel so relieved, it dissipates the heavy weight that descends on me looking at the pile of books to read beside my bed. I do not need to be ‘smart’ or ‘bright’. I can accept being dull from time to time (grin). Coleman Barks, the translator of Rumi and a great American poet, spoke at a conference in Massachusetts I had the privilege of attending two years ago. On the last day, during questions and answers with the many astute and devoted poetry lovers, he said, “I am often confused and I have no particular aesthetic.” Fantastic! What a relief to not have to belong to a school of thought or a style of poetry. Why not just be aimless as the wind, drifting like a wave on the ocean, breathing in the wisdom that comes from the senses. Why not feel like an idiot sometimes, and give the thinking brain a break?
This summer I remember being so tired from reading and thinking that my brain hurt; even the scalp on top of my head was sore. At the Taos writers’ spa, I mostly took advantage of the great yoga classes, the massage and reiki treatments; I wrote a bit in my journal. And I felt guilty for not writing every day or working on my many project ideas. But my body and brain needed the spa part of the week more than the writer part.
Amen. Here's to drinking from the source.
Another similar Tao Te Ching entry, #21, about what keeps the mind busy:
The Master keeps her mind
always at one with the Tao;
that is what gives her her radiance.
The Tao is ungraspable.
How can her mind be at one with it?
Because she doesn’t cling to ideas.
The Tao is dark and unfathomable.
How can it make her radiant?
Because she lets it.
Since before time and space were,
the Tao is.
It is beyond is and is not.
How do I know this is true?
I look inside myself and see.
Wow! Bravo for Lao Tsu and his inimitable expression of his own experience.
We can all look inside ourselves and see!