Laozi…

more thinking

Laozi as a youngish man – usually he is portrayed as very old…

Here is a short chapter (44) from the Taoteching as translated by Red Pine. (I really enjoy his version which includes historical commentaries alongside the text.)

Which is more vital
fame or health
which is more precious
health or riches
which is more harmful
loss or gain
the deeper the love
the higher the cost
the bigger the treasure
the greater the loss
who knows contentment
suffers no shame
who knows restraint
encounters no trouble
and thus lives long

名 與 身 孰 親 。
身 與 貨 孰 多 。
得 與 亡 孰 病 。
甚 愛 必 大 費 ﹔
多 藏 必 厚 亡 。
故 知 足 不 辱 ,
知 止 不 殆 ,
可 以 長 久 。

image (cc) 2011 Hilary Farmer

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5 Responses to “Laozi…”

  1. “which is more harmful
    loss or gain?”

    This is the question all Chess players should ask themselves.

    Beautiful drawing, btw.

  2. I find the Taoteching frustrating because while I appreciate the metaphysics, the social and psychological aspects leave something to be desired.

    In the present case, “the deeper the love/the higher the cost” is a sentiment that strikes me as quite wrong-headed. The cost of love is the entropy of a furious green idea. Here’s a quick sketch of a reply, although I’m not very happy with it (it’s both two concrete and too abstract!):

    piles of gold coin
    gleam in the candlelight
    cold moon rises

    flickering fire
    smiles upon stamped faces
    all the dead kings

    empty of love
    they wait in the nighttime
    fading to dark

    empty of cost
    love sleeps in silence
    waiting for dawn

    But the image is beautiful, and intentionally or otherwise you’ve caught the night sky of a few days ago, with the Moon in waxing crescent not far from Venus.

    • Interesting poem! I like it.

      well… not that the Taoteching needs defending but… perhaps it’s not talking about love so much as attachment.
      From the commentaries in Red Pine’s translation: Lu Hui-ch’ing says “…the one loves fame because he wants to glorify himself. The more he loves fame, the more he loses what he would really glorify. Hence the cost is high…”
      Another translation (Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English) renders that line:
      “He who is attached to things will suffer much”

      I did see that night sky but it crept into the image without deliberation.

      • Fair enough: I’m pretty restrictive in my use of the word “love”, so using “attachment” works much better for me.

        I’m always struck by the enormous range in the translations of this work: it’s an ink blot in which each translator sees their own reflection.

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