Tao
Te
Ching

A Book Of
The Way

The map is not
the territory

JK Water Joe Kelly (author)

1

The Way that can be told
is not the Way.

No definition we can hold
can have its name.

Before we start a definition
there is no division.

Our map of separate things
is something made.

So...
There’s no hope
of fixing the mystery.

That hope puts you
in your own way.

It’s an on and off wave
and an ongoing exchange:

You re-draw the map,
hope the territory
is explained.

Continue to explore
what always goes before
your definitions.

Walk through
door after door
towards Mastery.

2

Without exception...

When good is decided, bad is compared.
When right is established, wrong is declared.

Likewise...
A something makes nothings.
A difficult explains easies.
A long describes shorts.
A high arranges lows.

And vice versa.

Thus...
The Master thinks in not-so-split distinctions.
Skill consists in not-so-strict instructions.

He brings the
bigger disposition.

Lets it go.

Lots of different
things arisen.

Not imposed.

He creates but doesn’t possess.
He enacts but doesn’t expect.
He succeeds but doesn’t profess.

The world is never
seen as rigid.

On it flows.

2

Without exception...

When good is decided, bad is compared.
When right is established, wrong is declared.

Likewise...
A something makes nothings.
A difficult explains easies.
A long describes shorts.
A high arranges lows.

And vice versa.

Thus...
Masters think in not-so-split distinctions.
Skill consists in not-so-strict instructions.

They bring the
bigger disposition.

Lets it go.

Lots of different
things arisen.

Not imposed.

They create but don’t possess.
They enact but don’t expect.
They succeed but don’t profess.

The world is never
seen as rigid.

On it flows.

3

With no high positions
there’s no rivalry.

With no treasures to protect
there are no thieves.

With no hoped-for preconceptions
there’s no problem disagreeing.

Thus...
The Master keeps the mind
not-so-preoccupied.

The belly then
rarely unfills.

He uproots his beliefs;
disproves his ideas.

His will is not enforced
yet order builds.

3

With no high positions
there’s no rivalry.

With no treasures to protect
there are no thieves.

With no hope-filled preconceptions
there’s no problem disagreeing.

Thus...
Masters keep the mind
not-so-preoccupied.

The belly then
rarely unfills.

They uproot their beliefs;
disprove their ideas.

Their will is not enforced
yet order builds.

4

The Way only stays
when you pour it away.

The well doesn’t dry but flows on.

See ten thousand things
as each ends and begins.

And all the while still it goes on.

The pointed smoothes over.
The tangled unwinds.
The glaring fades.
The dust settles.

What a mystery!

I see no way
we’d know or say
this nature.

It’s like a picture
with no edge to frame.

5

Nature has no favoured way.

All things rearrange
without a passion.

The Master has no favoured way.

All his concepts change
with that detachment.

Look at ‘space’.

See space, you can say,
is quite a few ways
like a bellows.

Its emptiness
brings it its power!

The more that you move it
the more it produces!

See...
Ideas, words, nouns, verbs.
They work most of the time.

But don’t forget
they’re not the same
as that to which they sign.

5

Nature has no favoured way.

All things rearrange
without a passion.

Masters have no favoured way.

All their concepts change
with that detachment.

Look at ‘space’.

See space, you can say,
is quite a few ways
like a bellows.

Its emptiness
brings it its power!

The more that you move it
the more it produces!

See...
Ideas, words, nouns, verbs.
They work most of the time.

But don’t forget
they’re not the same
as that to which they sign.

6

It’s a rearranging space
of endless changes.

There’s room for improving
and gaps to expand in.

Feels like more
a female sort of thing.

Always there
and ready to receive.

7

The heavens are endless.
The earth lasts ages.

How can it be
explained?

They’re not products of themselves.
That’s how their growth is so sustained.

Thus...
The Master puts himself back
and it brings him forward.

By all the growth
that’s not his own
he’s well supported.

Odd how by this silence
of himself so much is gained.

7

The heavens are endless.
The earth lasts ages.

How can it be
explained?

They’re not products of themselves.
That’s how their growth is so sustained.

Thus...
Masters put themselves back
and it brings them forward.

By all the growth
that’s not their own
they’re well supported.

Odd how by this silence of
themselves so much is gained.

8

The highest skill
is like water.

Water fits all its
conditions.

It’s unforced.

It flows in the
low places where
others change course.

It finds and aligns with the Way.

So...
A good house is shaped to its grounds.
A good mind is shaped to its doubts.

A good talk is straight.
A good plan adapts.

A good action
is well timed.

So it lasts.

No course
that we enforce
secures things down.

9

Keep filling a bowl and it spills.

Use timing and distance...
Find what’s efficient...

This practice has
no end of skill.

Overprized treasures are never secure.
Oversharpened blades are quick to blunt.

Watch those who try
to highlight their
own worth...

They only ever
undermine their work.

Move on from work that’s over.
Don’t stray from the Way.

10

Who can find a focus and foundation?
No distractions, no separation.

Where can you concentrate for days
still like a baby, soft-of-shape?

Where do preconceptions clear away
leaving ever fewer stains?

Where does cooperation reign
without being made?

Where do countless good decisions
come from no specific system?

Where does each new piece of wisdom
mark the start of more tuition?

Endless development.

It’s created without possessing.
It’s enacted without expecting.
It’s inspired without directing.

It’s an Untold Power.

11

We join thirty spokes at a wheel’s hub.
The hole in the middle moves the cart.

We mould clay into a pot.
The emptiness inside makes it useful.

We build walls to make a house.
The space is where we live.

Every valued thing
makes use of nothing.

12

The Five Colours blind people.
The Five Tones deafen people.
The Five Feelings numb people.

See...
Search replaces sensing.
Success misguides the mind.

Thus...
The Master begins
with the actual things.

Before thoughts of
What He Will Find.

12

The Five Colours blind people.
The Five Tones deafen people.
The Five Feelings numb people.

See...
Search replaces sensing.
Success misguides the mind.

Thus...
Masters begin
with the actual things.

Before thoughts of
What They Will Find.

13

Glory or shame: the concern is the same.
Status is the fundamental menace.

We’re chasing low places
when aiming at status.

Fear for its loss...
Hope for its gain...

It’s a two-folded game
played on age-old terrain.

What a pain there’s
no way to not play it.

As long as it’s
not motivation.

Those who walk in
the shoes of the world
will be trusted to shape it.

14

Look for it, you won’t find it — it’s not hidden.
Listen for it, you won’t hear it — it’s not faint.
Grasp at it, you won’t catch it — it’s not there.

None of these three
can succeed:

Our attempts
to make sense
are all part of it.

It’s not something
located elsewhere.

So...
It’s neither bright nor dull;
neither rises nor lulls.

It refuses definition.

It’s like trying
to pull a thread
of endless length.

So we give it weird names:

The Unformed Form.
The Elusive.
The Void.

The Inimitable
Un-image-able Mystery!

No face to meet.
No back to follow.

The ancient Way
is here today.

Leaving footprints.

15

The wisest ones of old
were skilled in not being told.

They could learn on their own
in a way they weren’t shown.

So profoundly aware of
the edges around
the unknown.

How did they approach the unknown?

Stay ready.
Move through it like a winter river.

Stay undecided.
Keep the possibilities alive.

Stay attentive.
Be its humble guest.

Stay smooth.
Turn the frozen wet.

Stay undesigned.
Don’t carve the block early.

Stay undefined.
Let some things be murky.

Stay mixed.
Accept unsettled.

Whose unsettled edges never perish
but continuously clear?

Whose balance never centers
but continuously appears?

Staying this way means
never being swayed
by Fulfillment.

The path not-so-blemished
gets endlessly replenished.

16

In the end
all things tend
towards stillness.

See...
Ten thousand things
have their beginnings.

Now it’s their returns
which we consider.

Each one returns
to the condition
it begins with.

It’s consistent.

And knowledge of
consistent things
brings wisdom.

To not know of
consistent things
brings dissonance.

Consistent things
give principles.

Principles give visions
of much bigger systems.

This gives us people
in ruling positions.

They make the large and
far-reaching decisions.

Which all goes to shape
other people’s conditions.

People in their own ways
shape history’s limits.

The skillful death
is not a threat.

Just a fact
of existence.

17

The best leaders
build understanding.

The next best build admiration.
The next best build doubt.
The worst build hate.

See...
Straight instruction isn’t enough;
it’s never straightforward.

The Master gives
this maximum
importance.

He succeeds when other people say,
“We do it on our own, our way”.

17

The best leaders
build understanding.

The next best build admiration.
The next best build doubt.
The worst build hate.

See...
Straight instruction isn’t enough;
it’s never straightforward.

Masters give
this maximum
importance.

They succeed when other people say,
“We do it on our own, our way”.

18

Where the Way doesn’t flow,
‘Correct’ sets in stone.

Where wisdom is routine,
deception succeeds.

Where families misalign,
the children honor and obey.

Where a people divide,
their ‘Saints’ are ordained.

19

Throw away ‘Wise’ and ‘Adept’
and people gain them times a hundred.

Throw away ‘Proper’ and ‘Correct’
and what’s right can be discovered.

Throw away ‘Special’ and ‘Best’
and growth is unencumbered.

The three
written here
aren’t sufficient.

So as a pair of
more general
conditions:

Reality isn’t so polished.
That hope is best abolished.

20

Scrap the guidebooks.
Save your worries.

What’s the difference between
“Good day, sir” and “Hi”?

Does it matter?

Must we all walk
‘The Single Course’?

How stupid!

People get engrossed
like hungry guests at a feast.

I say keep listening
like a baby figuring out speech.

They’re good at
the daily increase.

But what about
the daily decrease?

Hack away at the unessential.

I must be a fool
my mind is so empty!

People like light.
But there’s dark and unseen.

People seem sure.
Things seem doubtful to me.

People get fixed.
They hope everything stays.

I say...
While they’re trying to trap
The Mother’s tides:

Bring on Her waves.

21

Where character is real
nothing is adhered to but the Way.

As in...
The Way you can’t be told
and no-one can say.

The words we read don’t secure it.
The images we see just obscure it.

The definitions are endless
and constantly change.

Still...
All those definitions
share a basic composition.

In ancient times
and still today...

The specifics are different.
But the movement?

It’s the same.

How can it be ours?
Keep going.

22

Before complete, things are unfinished.
Before any straight, there’s a bend.

Before full, things are empty.
Before any start, there’s an end.

Before opportunity, there’s limitation.
Before uncertainty, freedom extends.

Thus...
The Master combines the two faces.
Not separate things but stages.

He looks for neither
and sees clearly.

He clings to neither
and moves free.

He targets neither
and succeeds.

He lifts up neither
without need.

The less he strives for one side
the less unwelcome strife he meets.

22

Before complete, things are unfinished.
Before any straight, there’s a bend.

Before full, things are empty.
Before any start, there’s an end.

Before opportunity, there’s limitation.
Before uncertainty, freedom extends.

Thus...
Masters combine the two faces.
Not separate things but stages.

They look for neither
and see clearly.

They cling to neither
and move free.

They target neither
and succeed.

They lift up neither
without need.

The less they strive for one side
the less unwelcome strife they meet.

23

The natural is succinct.

The strongest winds aren’t always blowing.
The heaviest rain doesn’t fall every day.

These two are natural movements.
Neither is too long sustained.

Why on Earth
should a person
be different?

See...
While many will make
great statements
of the Way...

Deliberating over the Way
is part of the Way.

Deliberating over character
is part of character.

Deliberating over neither
is part of neither.

Seeing this is how
these things complete.

Recall...
Straight instruction isn’t enough;
it’s never straightforward.

24

The tallest stance is not the firmest.
The longest stride is not the fastest.

Those who try to seem bright do not shine.
Those who try to seem faultless make problems.

Only unapparent virtues need proclaiming.
Only doubtful truths need defense.

The Way needs no overstatement.
The Master needs no pretense.

25

There are times when events go together,
before any conceptions come to be.

What a silence this delivers!
Something truly unique.

There’s one course of action and no other aim.
Continuous flow, nothing else in the way.

We can make this be
the way that we
do anything.

You can’t really define it in technique.
I call it the Way — a path walked, so to speak.

Don’t sweat the definition.
Take a tour, not a Great Expedition.

Walk the Way
as a natural condition.

That’s to say...

Make the Way great.
It matters.

The source of great thoughts
and great actions.

Great rule-making too.
But after.

They’re the four major spaces we enter.
Ruling is the smallest in the center.

Remember...
Wherever there’s people
there’s actions.

Wherever there’s actions
there’s thoughts.

Wherever there’s thoughts
there’s the Way.

The Way they walk is theirs.
But the same.

26

Massive actions need play.
Massive storms need patience.

Notice...
Wisdom isn’t living without a blizzard.
Skill is many days spent heavy-laden.

But...
How can light play work
in a great general’s framework?

You need lightness
for the wise to self root.

You need storms
for the skillful to move.

27

Expert steps are
not followed.

Expert words are
not hollow.

See...
It’s not just tricks and locks.
Gather up keys and it won’t open.

It’s not just tying a knot.
Fasten it down and it’s broken.

Thus...
The Master will discern
an expert person
then return.

He never abandons his practice.

You could call this
‘Keeping The Lights On’.

Experts aren’t made
by being expert.

Experts are made
by being not expert.

So...
Always respect a good lesson,
but never adhere without question.

Irrespective of how clever,
that’s a fundamental error.

Doubt is essential.

27

Expert steps are
not followed.

Expert words are
not hollow.

See...
It’s not just tricks and locks.
Gather up keys and it won’t open.

It’s not just tying a knot.
Fasten it down and it’s broken.

Thus...
Masters will discern
an expert person
then return.

They never abandon their practice.

You could call this
‘Keeping The Lights On’.

Experts aren’t made
by being expert.

Experts are made
by being not expert.

So...
Always respect a good lesson,
but never adhere without question.

Irrespective of how clever,
that’s a fundamental error.

Doubt is essential.

28

To know what’s male
means keeping what’s female.

They make a stream.

Real character’s in that stream
like a baby would see.

To know what’s light
means keeping what’s dark.

They make one means.

Real character’s in that means
and at neither extreme.

To know what’s virtuous
means keeping what’s vicious.

They make a valley.

Real character’s in that valley
or it has no real value.

Neither shape serves us
unless there’s real purpose.

So then...

Carve these blocks wiser...
Go further and higher...

But there’s no splitting them.

29

You try to force the world towards
your liking, but it doesn’t happen.

The world itself has its own wealth
of timings, you can’t combat them.

It’s those who wish
the world were fixed
who break it.

It’s those who keep
the tightest grip
who lose it.

Notice...
When leading turns out followed...
When loud turns out mellow...

When strong turns out weak...
When victories turn out defeats...

Thus...
The Master knows you
never know for certain.

He shuns
excessive action
and extremes.

29

You try to force the world towards
your liking, but it doesn’t happen.

The world itself has its own wealth
of timings, you can’t combat them.

It’s those who wish
the world were fixed
who break it.

It’s those who keep
the tightest grip
who lose it.

Notice...
When leading turns out followed...
When loud turns out mellow...

When strong turns out weak...
When victories turn out defeats...

Thus...
Masters know you
never know for certain.

They shun
excessive action
and extremes.

30

Good rule-making
has room made
for the Way.

Forcing isn’t how
it’s all maintained.

Force means opposition.

The path your army walks
has many thorns.

The field after the war
produces slower
than before.

Thus...
The skillful move to action
as trees give rise to fruit.

They don’t go further.

When they prevail
it’s not for glory.

When they succeed
it’s not for show.

When they achieve
it’s not for distinction.

When they guide
it’s not for control.

Overgrown means frail.

What’s not the Way
is not sustained.

31

The finest soldiers
find it’s joyless.

Maybe it’s not right.

For those who walk the Way
it has no special weight.

But it’s not taken light.

The best success is
two sides kept.

Enforcer right.
Civilian left.

The finest soldiers
find it’s joyless.

They know the fight,
not how it’s dressed.

The task is adopted
with no better option.

The feeling is neutral at best.

See...
Victory is serious.

Joy can’t rest
on others’ deaths.

The delight in requiring
that others are dying...

That’s the height
of dysfunction.

Nothing less.

So...
Generals go left in the good times
and right when times are bad.

Two paths run through their lives
until their funeral is had.

32

The Way won’t be defined.

That’s a small and simple rule
but it’ll never be outsized.

Not by anyone.

When rule-makers are capable
of not-defining well...

The world of separate things
begins aligning by itself.

The whole takes on a shape...
It’s like a sweetness-trapping lattice.

There’s no-one who controls it
but continuous rebalance.

The rules you make
define a shape.

Defining is automatic.

The skill in this
for minimum risk?

Remember to abandon.

Our ordered paths are to the Way
as tiny streams are to the sea.

33

It’s clever
when you know
the path of another.

Truly able people know their own.

It’s strength
when you succeed
compared to another.

Truly strong success is standalone.

Some know what
sufficient means.

They’re the wealthy.

Some improve
relentlessly.

They work the belly.

There are those for whom
these two cohere.

They go the furthest.

There are those who’ve died
and haven’t disappeared.

They’re not finished.

34

Great actions
are expansions
of the Way.

Both can form
a back and forth
exchange.

Wherein...

There’s a million new beginnings
which it gives no opposition.

There’s much achieved
it gives no definition.

There’s a million
things it feeds.

But no ruling
conditions.

There’s no
desire for those
positions.

The less the better.

There’s a million goals
the future holds.

But not ruling
positions.

The more the merrier.

Great actions can be made
when being great is not the aim.

35

We’re drawn to many
great conceptions.

Away from pains
towards guarantees.

Rich and blissful visions
take their prisoners.

The Way?

It’s far too bland
compared to these!

Looked for, it’s invisible.
Listened for, it’s inaudible.
Worked for, it’s inexhaustible.

36

You try to shorten something
but that lengthens it.

You try to weaken something
but that strengthens it.

You try to undermine something
but that reinforces it.

You try to subtract something
but that adds more of it.

It’s subtle.

Flexible beats firm.
Adaptive beats unyielding.

Like the fish
which can’t live
without water:

These are active currents
we must swim in.

These living skills are only built
with practice, never given.

37

The Way in fact
has no set path
of action.

It’s never just do this
and don’t do that.

When rule-makers are capable
of walking on this path...

There’s a world of separate things
that isn’t told, it just adapts.

Hopes arise
where a change
has thrived.

These I’d say
it’s better not to have.

Re-undefine.

Don’t carve the block
before its time.

Outside your
hoped-for notions
all is not so misaligned.

38

Real character isn’t a character;
that’s why it has character.

Low character is just a character;
that’s why it lacks character.

Real character can’t be enacted;
it's not a destination.

Low character can be enacted;
it’s all an emulation.

See...
The most well-made action
has no defined shape.

The most correct action
is a shape you must make.

A fully ordered action
everyone hates.

You just obey
and imitate.

So...
You lose the Way through a character.
You lose character through ‘Well-made’.
You lose well-made through ‘Correctness’.

And past ‘Correct’ there’s nothing left...
Just orders followed more or less.

Empty meditations aimed
at traces of the Way.

The source of
all sorts of
disorder.

Thus...
The Master takes care of the depths
and lets the surface sort itself.

Not gathered leaves
but rooted tree.

He builds upon
the way things are.

Not on ‘What Should Be’.

38

Real character isn’t a character;
that’s why it has character.

Low character is just a character;
that’s why it lacks character.

Real character can’t be enacted;
it's not a destination.

Low character can be enacted;
it’s all an emulation.

See...
The most well-made action
has no defined shape.

The most correct action
is a shape you must make.

A fully ordered action
everyone hates.

You just obey
and imitate.

So...
You lose the Way through a character.
You lose character through ‘Well-made’.
You lose well-made through ‘Correctness’.

And past ‘Correct’ there’s nothing left...
Just orders followed more or less.

Empty meditations aimed
at traces of the Way.

The source of
all sorts of
disorder.

Thus...
Masters take care of the depths
and let the surface sort itself.

Not gathered leaves
but rooted trees.

They build upon
the way things are.

Not on ‘What Should Be’.

39

Oldness is in holding
‘One True Way’.

Only one belief is clear;
one set of actions must appear.

The one-way quiet mind
blocks out all the undefineds.

Everything developing
must fit the One True Shape.

Every king and rule-maker
must keep the world One Way.

But...
Beliefs must fall to pieces
in order to get clearer.

Actions must be adapted
to match the arena.

The mind must keep still
with gaps it can’t fill.

Universal rules
for any leader.

So...
Overvaluing things is costly.
Exalting things too highly brings decline.

Thus...
Beneath the most skilled leaders
the ground is recognized.

They say, “We alone
are unworthy”.

And so pay
no such price.

Notice...
It may look like a chariot;
doesn’t mean you’ve got one.

Don’t just see the shining jewels;
look to the rocks at the bottom.

40

When you enact ‘The Way’
you’ve gone against it.

When you apply ‘The Way’
you’ve lessened it.

They are bits of what it is
turned into what it isn’t.

41

Top academics hear ‘The Way’
and diligently practice.

Middle academics hear ‘The Way’
and are drawn in and out.

Non-academics hear ‘The Way’
and laugh aloud.

If we can’t ever laugh
there isn’t a path
for the Way.

So...
Often we say...

Ways of ‘Light’ conceal.
Ways of ‘Progress’ hold back.

‘Equalness’ distinguishes.
‘High Character’ is a low track.

What’s ‘Pure White’ is a stain.
What’s ‘Rich’ creates lack.

Intention does not
mean impact.

See...
Great discipline is outside the boundaries.
Great practice is not-so-complete.

There are sounds
no-one hears.

There are things
no-one sees.

The Way is not something
carved and concrete.

No definition, beginning and finish.
The only way it’s achieved.

42

We name ‘The Way’
in hopes of framing everything.

Soon one, two, three,
ten thousand separate things.

So many ‘Yangs’
wrapped up in ‘Yins’.

Is it ‘Harmony’?

It’s a fear to
move alone.

People stick to
what they know.

Leadership requires
that we don’t.

Notice...
Things we think disastrous
turn out as blessings.

Things we think blessings
turn out disastrous.

I’ve learned this
same as others.

So...
For those who force their
‘One True Course’ of action:

No assurance.

Wisdom is in knowing
things aren’t certain.

That I’m sure of.

43

It’s better most often
we’re able to soften.

See...
Those who hold to no specific shape
need to go through no specific gate.

That’s why I value
no set path of action.

But since it can’t be learned
through studying words,
most never grasp it.

44

There’s who you are
and how you’re known.

Which of them stays closer?

There’s what you are
and what you own.

Which of them goes further?

There’s what you have
and what you don’t.

Which is a disturbance?

Notice...
Any extreme has its cost.
At some point, more creates loss.

Think sufficient, not less than.
Think in limits, not no plans.

Aim at a way that can last.

45

An incomplete precedes
a great achievement.

It’s not useless.

A pouring out precedes
a great fulfillment.

It’s not fruitless.

The straightest path will sometimes turn.
The greatest skill could seem unlearned.

The strongest part of speech
can be the stammers
not the words.

Remember...
Nothing has ever
stopped moving.

Fast and hot or
slow and not.

Each new ideal
is trying to stand still
but that’s not how it works.

46

The world’s horses
are forces for cycling manure.

They weren’t bred to fight on
the frontlines of war.

See...
We can want things.

That’s our worst
corrupting factor.

We don’t know
what enough is.

That’s what makes
our worst disasters.

The worst of our flaws
is to just pursue ‘More’.

When enough know enough
the worst has a master.

47

You don’t go through ‘The Door’
and then know everything for sure.

You don’t look through ‘The Window’
and see the Way once and for all.

The further these grow
the more they limit
what you know.

Thus...
The Master doesn’t stay
at what he knows.

He doesn’t stop
at what he’s shown.

He doesn’t aim
at what he’s done.

47

You don’t go through ‘The Door’
and then know everything for sure.

You don’t look through ‘The Window’
and see the Way once and for all.

The further these grow
the more they limit
what you know.

Thus...
Masters don’t stay
at what they know.

They don’t stop
at what they’re shown.

They don’t aim
at what they’ve done.

48

Deliberateness builds up in learning.
The Way is in shaving it down.

More and more goes
until free from the known.

No do or don’t
to be found.

Those who grasp the whole
do so through having
no such goal.

We lose the whole
with such a goal around.

49

The Master’s mind
is not persistent.

It fits with all
of its conditions.

He’s good with the good times.
And he’s good with the bad.

That’s what good is.

He’s got integrity when
others show integrity.

And when others
show none back.

That’s what integrity is.

See...
Wisdom exists in the world
as part of bigger actions.

Nothing is caught
in structured thought
but temporary fractions.

49

The Master’s mind
is not persistent.

It fits with all
of its conditions.

They’re good with the good times.
And they’re good with the bad.

That’s what good is.

They’ve got integrity when
others show integrity.

And when others
show none back.

That’s what integrity is.

See...
Wisdom exists in the world
as part of bigger actions.

Nothing is caught
in structured thought
but temporary fractions.

50

Coming to life means
going to death.

So...
Three tenths to handle your living.
Three tenths to handle your death.

And three tenths to those
alive after you’ve left.

Each of these
brings meaning.

Now...
There’s a lot said and written
on these skills of living.

They say, “Blend them well
then some powers are given”.

So wherever you go
you could never get bitten.

No armour but nowhere
for spears to go into.

Is there a way
this is true?

Those alive after you.

51

Any ‘Way’ that we make
takes a charactered shape.

We separate things
by their valuable traits.

Thus...
Take anybody’s world
of separate things.

‘The Way’ and its character
are always baked in.

Now...
The Way should be raised
and its character respected.

But they’re both as they are
and they’re never directed.

So...
For each ‘Way’ you make,
take its charactered shape...

Flip and rotate it.
Break and re-make it.

Less wrong.
Less defective.

Remember...
It’s created without possessing.
It’s enacted without expecting.
It’s inspired without directing.

It’s an Untold Power.

52

Without exception...

Everything has something else it started in.
That’s to say: a mother it’s arisen with.

This mother isn’t different
from its children.

It’s included.

A complete picture of one
gives you the other.

Disprove it?

Recall...
The skillful death is not a threat;
just a fact of existence.

This is the opening.

So far as you don’t close it
things keep growing.

See...
In keeping it open
and following it through...

These day-to-day boundaries
can’t be called true.

When we see this small thing
it gives wisdom.

Where these limitations lift
it gives strength.

Apply this to be lighter.

And feed clarity
in ways that
never end.

53

People make Great Ways.
Systems of adherence.

The cost is lots of pedantry
and pointless interference.

They say ‘The Great Way’
for the narrowest lanes.

I see very tidy courts
but fields of weeds
and empty stores.

Fancy clothes
and sharpened sword.

Sought-after things
and life engorged.

It leads us to
thieves and
deceivers.

Not the Way.

54

Good grounding comes through
what we can’t uproot.

Good keeping comes through
what we can’t remove.

This practice means
the sacrifice of
many things.

When applied...

It leaves you with truth
and more for your group.

It means society improves
and a civilization blooms.

It means everything
together moves.

So...
People, homes and families...
Districts, towns and nations...

Each applying
by itself creates a
co-active foundation.

How do I know
that’s true?

By this practice.

73 /  81
Current progress (91%)

The next 19 chapters are finished, and
I’m working on #74 as we speak. 57 to 61
is cool: all about nations and governing.
I found other translations here to be
very muddled.

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small donation if you find
my work valuable.

You don’t have to — please only give
me something if you feel like you’ve got
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your support is hugely appreciated.

E.g. $3 buys me a coffee, $10 buys me a book.
No worries if you can’t afford to do this,
just go make something happen.

55

Real character means
fathomless potential.

It’s like the
newborn infant:
pre-developmental.

A venomous snake yet to bite.
A fearsome beast yet to fight.
A predatory bird yet to strike.

See...
Soft-of-shape, but sure-of-grip.
Male or female, both so rich.

Such possibility!

All day screams, full-bore and then:
its voice refreshed to go again.

Such harmony!

Now...
This always seems consistent
underneath the surface difference.

And knowledge of
consistent things
brings wisdom.

The more that it’s accorded with
the more good can be delivered.

But if you’re forcing
hoped-for things
into fruition?

Overgrown means frail.

What’s not the Way
is not sustained.

56

Knowing doesn’t mean saying.
Saying doesn’t mean knowing.

This applies both
inbound and outgoing.

The pointed smoothes over.
The tangled unwinds.
The glaring fades.
The dust settles.

The Way never stays,
it keeps flowing.

Words aren’t special.

They can’t be attached to it.
They can’t not be attached to it.

They can’t be fit to it.
They can’t not be fit to it.

It’s not distinctive
nor indistinctive.

What’s really
distinctive?

All of it.

57

We formalize a state
by laws and their infraction.

We utilize an army
by surprises and distraction.

We control the world
by neither course of action.

How do I know
that’s true?

Because:

The more you build
that system of restrictions...

The more you stifle
people’s decisions.

As you force people to fit...

It means they don’t
use their own vision.

Over-specialize technique...

The more you find
surprise conditions.

Just prohibit everything...

That makes more
criminal positions.

Thus...
The Master must
acknowledge:

For people to adapt themselves
you have to not do it.

For people to order themselves
they must be left to it.

For people to stand for a value
they have to choose it.

For people to handle untruth
they must remove it.

57

We formalize a state
by laws and their infraction.

We utilize an army
by surprises and distraction.

We control the world
by neither course of action.

How do I know
that’s true?

Because:

The more you build
that system of restrictions...

The more you stifle
people’s decisions.

As you force people to fit...

It means they don’t
use their own vision.

Over-specialize technique...

The more you find
surprise conditions.

Just prohibit everything...

That makes more
criminal positions.

Thus...
Masters must acknowledge:

For people to adapt themselves
you have to not do it.

For people to order themselves
they must be left to it.

For people to stand for a value
they have to choose it.

For people to handle untruth
they must remove it.

58

In government...

Handling great doubt is how to serve us.
Pretending certainty does everyone disservice.

See...
There’s never fortune
without bad circumstances.

There’s never disaster
without good circumstances.

Who thinks
there’s a list of
finished answers?

Or rules?

Every rigid set of rules begets surprise.
Skill consists in not-predestined eyes.

Be sure
this endures
through your life.

Thus...
The Master seeks:

To see wholes, not divides.
To understand, not join a side.

To speak straight, not to deny.
To shine a light, not to blind.

58

In government...

Handling great doubt is how to serve us.
Pretending certainty does everyone disservice.

See...
There’s never fortune
without bad circumstances.

There’s never disaster
without good circumstances.

Who thinks
there’s a list of
finished answers?

Or rules?

Every rigid set of rules begets surprise.
Skill consists in not-predestined eyes.

Be sure
this endures
through your life.

Thus...
Masters seek:

To see wholes, not divides.
To understand, not join a side.

To speak straight, not to deny.
To shine a light, not to blind.

59

There’s no course towards
the highest accord.

It follows from real character
which nobody can force.

So to order it:

Take away restrictions,
keep the least we can afford.

That’s a condition
for real character to form.

See...
It’s ruled out by strict instructions.
It’s not some fixed construction.

The path to it is fathomless...

Countless recorrections.
Countless rebalances.

We can’t say any
more than this.

Likewise...
Nations are created
destinationless.

Unforeseen new changes
keep sustaining us.

Lose this guarantee and
we’re foundationless.

To remain
never stray
from the Way.

The deepest roots
are laid like this.

60

Govern a big country...
Fry a small fish...

The Way is any walk of life,
doesn’t matter which.

See ‘Sinful’ and ‘Unsacred’ Ways?
Not all sinful and unsacred.

See ‘Sacred’, ‘Harmless-natured’ Ways?
Not sacred or harmless-natured.

Notice...
It’s by Mastery of crafts
that we stop harmfulness.

Everything opposes
and collides.

Real character
means harmfulness
is harnessed on all sides.

61

Great nations are systems
of lowest positions.

Bottom-most places
the world flows
down into.

Things oppose
in everything.

Great means having
space and time
for all of it.

You could say it’s the feminine.
Receptive to the masculine.

The main thing is
the lowering.

Now...
The big picture lives downstream of the specifics.
The specifics downstream of the big picture.

The back and forth exchange
keeps them consistent.

In great systems:

The big picture
doesn’t hinge
on individuals.

The specifics
don’t infringe
on individuals.

Hope tries to find
‘Perfect Balance’.

Great goes lower down
and not-so-static.

62

Maps of separate things
can’t fit the Way.

The moment they begin
is when they fail.

See...
The skilled know
they’ll never reveal it.

The unskilled protect
and conceal it.

Well placed words can be acclaimed.
Well praised acts can be ingrained.

They cannot guarantee
a person wields it.

So...
With no way for One
to perceive it:

Heaven Borns find Three
to disagree with.

Each of them alone succeeds
but Four is more strategic.

There’s no comparison to progress
on the Way when all four lead it.

Historically...
Those who know don’t say
‘The Way To Seek It’.

Any path like that
gets superseded.

Welcome the adjustments
as they’re needed.

63

Move without thoughts about action.
Do without thoughts about work.
Taste without thoughts about flavour.

Thin them out
and slim them down.

They’re in the way
of the behaviour.

They make complex out of simple.
They make large out of small.

Take simple steps,
things grow complex.

And out of this
the large will fall.

Recall...
Great actions can be made
when being great is not the aim.

So...
Light preconceptions;
less disturbance.

Simple things;
complex emerges.

Thus...
The Master walks his path
without a complicated purpose.

63

Move without thoughts about action.
Do without thoughts about work.
Taste without thoughts about flavour.

Thin them out
and slim them down.

They’re in the way
of the behaviour.

They make complex out of simple.
They make large out of small.

Take simple steps,
things grow complex.

And out of this
the large will fall.

Recall...
Great actions can be made
when being great is not the aim.

So...
Light preconceptions;
less disturbance.

Simple things;
complex emerges.

Thus...
Masters walk their paths
without a complicated purpose.

64

The stable path maintains.
The risk-free path retraces.

The unchanged path is fragile.
The unwalked path is wasted.

They’re all easy ways
in which disorder
gets created.

See...
Giant trees were once tiny seeds.
Great cities began as dirt heaps.
Adventure begins with the feet.

Recall...
It’s those who wish
the world were fixed
who break it.

It’s those who keep
the tightest grip
who lose it.

Thus...
The Master doesn’t.

People stick to ways
that fix and break.

Beginning...
middle...
end...

In Mastery risk remains.

Thus...
The Master prefers no-preference
and lets go of treasures.

He learns what’s not a lesson
and knows human errors.

The world of separate things
brings whatever it brings.

He adapts himself to it
and does so forever.

64

The stable path maintains.
The risk-free path retraces.

The unchanged path is fragile.
The unwalked path is wasted.

They’re all easy ways
in which disorder
gets created.

See...
Giant trees were once tiny seeds.
Great cities began as dirt heaps.
Adventure begins with the feet.

Recall...
It’s those who wish
the world were fixed
who break it.

It’s those who keep
the tightest grip
who lose it.

Thus...
The Master doesn’t.

People stick to ways
that fix and break.

Beginning...
middle...
end...

In Mastery risk remains.

Thus...
Masters prefer no-preference
and let go of treasures.

They learn what’s not a lesson
and know human errors.

The world of separate things
brings whatever it brings.

They adapt themselves to it
and they do so forever.

65

Skill is not a system
of other people’s wisdom.

Masters in the past
fit their techniques
to the conditions.

All clever things
are symptoms.

Now...
A nation is misled by what’s clever.
Its fortune is fed by what isn’t.

Learn to see both things
and tell the difference.

You could call this
‘Seeing the Hidden’.

The Hidden isn’t limited
and it isn’t taught or given.

Things are followed their own way
which brings a deeper, broader vision.

66

Watch the great rivers lead.

They’re like the kings
of many streams.

How can it be
explained?

Because they go lower.

Thus...
When people want to lift up the Master
he reliably notes his low path.

When others want to place him ahead
he reliably puts himself back.

His going above
adds no weight.

His going in front
adds no constraint.

Everything is free
in its own place.

There’s less striving overall
and less unwelcome strife is faced.

66

Watch the great rivers lead.

They’re like the kings
of many streams.

How can it be
explained?

Because they go lower.

Thus...
When people want to elevate Masters
they reliably note their low path.

When others want to place them ahead
they reliably put themselves back.

Their going above
adds no weight.

Their going in front
adds no constraint.

Everything is free
in its own place.

There’s less striving overall
and less unwelcome strife is faced.

67

Everyone says...

“The Way sounds very important,
but it doesn’t make sense!”

If the Way
could be made
that straightforward,
it would matter much less.

See...
There are many
important factors
in any great action.

If someone asked me
to name a top three...

The first thing would be:
understanding.

The second would be:
efficiency.

The third would be:
a map that never
leaves behind
the territory.

Now...
Understanding means
engaging the uncertainty and risk.

Efficiency means
more is achieved using less.

The territory
means all beliefs
can pass an actual test:

Where your map meets the world
it has a measure of success.

See...
Misunderstandings,
inefficiencies, not testing.

Each can stop the Way dead.

Understanding proceeds
by attacking ideas.

And keeping whatever is left.

Truly Timeless Principles
will always manifest.

68

Good commanders can win without war.
Good warriors don’t get angered or bored.

Good victories don’t need much accord.
Good leaders go lower than it all.

See...
It’s not just the conflicts
and confrontation.

It’s many strong leaders
and coordination.

Into Heaven.
Into History.

These are the extreme
considerations.

69

There’s a military saying:

Beware to give orders but end up the guest.
Beware to gain inches but end up with less.

You could call this
‘Advancing Without Advancing’.

There’s enforcement but nothing achieved.
There’s hostility but nothing it yields.
There’s war but nothing seized.

There’s no bigger threat
than when this cost
is not perceived.

Its weight is
underestimated.

Resources just leaked.

The less our forces fail like this
the more victory is seen.

70

When we speak...

We oversimplify knowledge;
we oversimplify action.

No words can say the knowledge;
no words can say the action.

Specific words
are just precursors.

It’s the task they do
that matters.

Now...
If we don’t unlearn known patterns
our own knowing can’t happen.

To know on your own
is uncommon.

Yet nothing compares
to its value.

Thus...
The Master’s words
are just rough dressings
over wealth never fathomed.

70

When we speak...

We oversimplify knowledge;
we oversimplify action.

No words can say the knowledge;
no words can say the action.

Specific words
are just precursors.

It’s the task they do
that matters.

Now...
If we don’t unlearn known patterns
our own knowing can’t happen.

To know on your own
is uncommon.

Yet nothing compares
to its value.

Thus...
The Masters’ words
are just rough dressings
over wealth never fathomed.

71

If you actually know
and consider that you don’t...

That’s best.

If you don’t really know
and believe that you know...

That’s a defect.

Now...
By defecting from defects
we stop their effects.

Thus...
The Master keeps defecting
until no defect is left.

71

If you actually know
and consider that you don’t...

That’s best.

If you don’t really know
and believe that you know...

That’s a defect.

Now...
By defecting from defects
we stop their effects.

Thus...
Masters continue defecting
until no defect is left.

72

People don’t fear judgement
before great judgement is reached.

That isn’t the way that
great judgement proceeds.

An excess to
it being achieved.

Now...
With this excess removed
we no longer exceed.

Thus...
The Master keeps track of his path,
drops the outside opinions.

He measures successes delivered
not status or brilliance.

The former is valued
and the latter isn’t.

72

People don’t fear judgement
before great judgement is reached.

That isn’t the way that
great judgement proceeds.

An excess to
it being achieved.

Now...
With this excess removed
we then don’t exceed.

Thus...
Masters keep track of their paths,
drop the outside opinions.

They measure successes delivered
not status or brilliance.

The former is valued
and the latter isn’t.

73

When you engage in a way
that’s all preordained...

That will kill it.

When you engage in a way
that’s not preordained...

Then it lives.

Now...
Each may bring you good or bad.
Nature keeps no promises of which.

Thus...
The Master doesn’t overcomplicate
and he avoids becoming fixed.

He moves his way
and Nature moves its.

So...
It can’t be contended?
Good: find the victory that fits.

It can’t be dictated?
Good: be responsive to this.

It can’t be designed?
Good: practice off script.

It’s hard to predict?
Then the strategy is...

Give some weight
to every possibility.

There are many ways
the evidence may shift.

With your net kept wide open
Nature’s entrances aren’t missed.

73

When you engage in a way
that’s all preordained...

That will kill it.

When you engage in a way
that’s not preordained...

Then it lives.

Now...
Each may bring you good or bad.
Nature keeps no promises of which.

Thus...
Masters don’t overcomplicate
and they avoid becoming fixed.

They move their way
and Nature moves its.

So...
It can’t be contended?
Good: find the victory that fits.

It can’t be dictated?
Good: be responsive to this.

It can’t be designed?
Good: practice off script.

It’s hard to predict?
Then the strategy is...

Give some weight
to every possibility.

There are many ways
the evidence may shift.

With your net kept wide open
Nature’s entrances aren’t missed.

74

民不畏死
奈何以死懼之
若使民常畏死
而為奇者
吾得執而殺之
孰敢
常有司殺者殺
夫代司殺者殺
是謂代大匠斲
夫代大匠斲者
希有不傷手矣

73 /  81
Current progress (91%)

I’m currently working on chapter #74.
Bear with me, this is all quite hard
to figure out and put together!

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