Tao
Te
Ching

A book of
the Way

The watercourse
translation

1

The Way that can be told
is not the Way.

No definition we can hold
can have its name.

Before we start its definition
there is no division.

Any map of separate things
is something made.

So...
There’s no hope
of fixing its 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 a good is decided, bad was compared.
When a right is established, wrong was declared.

In the same way...
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.

Then it goes.

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

In the same way...
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.

Then it goes.

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
gives it such 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
gives it such 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 this growth
that’s not his own
he’s well supported.

Odd how by the silence
of himself he is fulfilled.

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 this growth
that’s not their own
they’re well supported.

Odd how by the silence of
themselves they are fulfilled.

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?

The undistracted mind
without a hint of 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 creates without possessing.
It enacts without expecting.
It inspires without controlling.

In this lies 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.

All our valued things
make 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:
what a menace.

We’re chasing low places
when aiming at status.

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

An old two-fold game
played on ancient terrain.

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

As long as it’s
not motivation.

Walk in the shoes
of the world...

It will trust you 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.

These three can’t succeed.

Attempting to sense it is part of it —
not located elsewhere.

So...
It’s nothing bright,
nothing dull.

It doesn’t rise,
doesn’t lull.

It refuses definition,
like a thread of neverending 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 never being told.

They could learn on their own,
act without being shown.

Deeply aware
of the edges around
the unknown.

So 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?

To stay this way
do not be swayed
by Fulfillment.

The path not-so-blemished
gets endlessly replenished.

16

In the end
all things tend
towards stillness.

See...
A million different things
have their beginnings.

Now it’s their return
that we consider.

Each returns
to the condition
it begins with.

This seems consistent.

Knowing these
consistent things
brings wisdom.

Not knowing them
brings dissonance.

Consistent things
give principles.

Principles give visions
of much bigger systems.

This gives us people
in ruling positions.

They make the larger
far-reaching decisions.

That gives conditions
that shape people’s ways.

The people shape history
defining our age.

The skillful death
contains no threat.

Just non-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 completion things are unfinished.
Before every straight there’s a bend.

Before filling up things are empty.
Before every new there’s an end.

Before opportunity things are limited.
Before ‘the Way’ leads astray it 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 completion things are unfinished.
Before every straight there’s a bend.

Before filling up things are empty.
Before every new there’s an end.

Before opportunity things are limited.
Before ‘the Way’ leads astray it 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.

Hence...
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.

These are the four great 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.

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

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

You need the lightness
so those wise can self root.

You need the storms
so those skillful can 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.

Make them one stream.

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

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

Make them one means.

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

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

Make them one valley.

Real character’s in that valley
or neither has 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.

Take anything...

It might seem like leading.
Maybe it’s followed.

It might seem to be loud.
Maybe it’s mellow.

It might seem like strength.
Maybe it’s weak.

It might seem like victory.
Maybe it’s defeat.

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.

Take anything...

It might seem like leading.
Maybe it’s followed.

It might seem to be loud.
Maybe it’s mellow.

It might seem like strength.
Maybe it’s weak.

It might seem like victory.
Maybe it’s defeat.

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 sweet-stuff-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
that limits 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 others.

Truly able people know their own.

It’s strength
when you succeed
compared with others.

Truly strong successes stand alone.

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

There are many
great conceptions
we’re drawn to.

Away from pains
towards guarantees.

Rich and blissful visions
take their prisoners.

The Way?

So very bland
compared to these!

When looked for,
it’s invisible.

When listened for,
it’s inaudible.

When applied,
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
is not an exercise
in character.

That’s why it has character.

Low character
is all an exercise
in character.

That’s why it lacks character.

Real character
has no set path
of action.

It’s not a destination.

Low character
has lots of paths
of action.

It’s emulation.

See...
Truly well-made action
doesn’t have a given shape.

Truly ‘Correct’ action
is a shape that you instate.

Truly ordered action
everyone hates.

...just forced
to imitate.

So...
You lose the Way
by aiming at character.

You lose character
by acting well-made.

You lose well-made
by being ‘Correct’.

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 thoughts of
What Should Be.

38

Real character
is not an exercise
in character.

That’s why it has character.

Low character
is all an exercise
in character.

That’s why it lacks character.

Real character
has no set path
of action.

It’s not a destination.

Low character
has lots of paths
of action.

It’s emulation.

See...
Truly well-made action
doesn’t have a given shape.

Truly ‘Correct’ action
is a shape that you instate.

Truly ordered action
everyone hates.

...just forced
to imitate.

So...
You lose the Way
by aiming at character.

You lose character
by acting well-made.

You lose well-made
by being ‘Correct’.

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 thoughts of
What Should Be.

39

Oldness is in holding
One True Way.

Wherein...
Just one belief is clear.
One set of actions must appear.

The one-way quiet mind
must see nothing undefined.

Everything developing
must fit the One True Shape.

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

But see...
Beliefs must fall to pieces
to get clearer.

Actions must adapt
to the arena.

The mind must keep still
in 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.

Now...
You can collect all the parts of 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.

Without exception...

They’re all just bits of what it is
turned into what it isn’t.

41

Top scholars hear ‘The Way’
and diligently practice.

Middle scholars hear ‘The Way’
and move among crowds.

Non-scholars 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.

Watch...

Things we think disastrous
turn out as blessings.

Blessings disastrous.

I’ve learned this
same as others.

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

No assurance.

Wisdom isn’t certain.
That I’m sure of.

43

Most often better to soften.

Those who hold to
no specific shape...

...need to enter
no specific gate.

See why I value
no set path of action?

You can’t learn this
through words.

Few truly grasp it.

44

Master how you are
or how you’re known?

Make more of what you are
or what you own?

Think ill of what you have
or what you don’t?

Both extremes
are costly.

Too much stored
is one more cause
of losses.

Think sufficient,
not less than.

Learn to stop,
not have no plan.

You’ll go further.

45

Incompleteness is part
of great achievement.

It’s not useless.

Pouring out is part
of great fulfillment.

It’s not fruitless.

The straightest line
might be a turn.

The finest skills
might not be learned.

The strongest part of speech
might be in stammers
not in words.

Remember...
Things never stop moving.

It’s faster when hot,
slower when not.

Any ideal that
tries to stand still
will not work.

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

The Ways that we make
have 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.

Create without possessing.
Enact without expecting.
Inspire without controlling.

In this lies untold power.

52

Without exception...

All things have
another thing they
start within.

That’s to say...
a mother they’ve
arisen with.

This mother isn’t different
from its children.

It’s included.

A complete picture of one
gives you the other.

Disprove it?

Hence: the skillful death
contains no threat.

See...
Here we have
an opening.

Closing it stops us
from growing.

So...
Open it up...
Follow it through...

Our everyday boundaries
can’t be called true.

When we see this small thing
it brings wisdom.

When these limitations give
it brings 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 means integrity for you.
It means more for your group.

It means our society improves
and our civilization blooms.

It means that 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.

55

含德之厚
比於赤子
毒蟲不螫
猛獸不據
攫鷙不博
骨弱筋柔而握固
未知牝牡之合而全作
精之至也
終日號而嗌不嗄
和之至也
知和曰常
知常曰明
益生曰祥
心使氣曰強
物壯則老
是謂不道
不道早已

54 /  81
Published

The next 17 chapters are finished
and I’m working on #72 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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(even if you buy something different).

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The Wisdom of Insecurity
by Alan Watts

Early Alan Watts, shining a light on
the Way for the Western world.

Short and brilliant.

Flow
by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Finding flow = walking the Way.

Optimal experience consists in mindful
challenge, not mindless hedonism.

I think governments would do well
to measure Gross National Flow.

The Book of Five Rings
by Miyamoto Musashi

Legit Master.

An undefeated 17th century Samurai
wrote this book on strategy and the Way.

“Do nothing that is of no use”.
“Never stray from the Way”.

Musashi
by Eiji Yoshikawa

The story of Musashi, strategy, and
the Way, with an unbeatable ending.

I’m a slow reader but every page
of this was worthwhile.

Theory of Games
by John von Neumann

John von Neumann was an absurd
genius: father to modern computers
and the atom bomb.

Less well known is that he was also
the mother of Game Theory and
Behavioural Economics.

Inadequate Equilibria
by Eliezer Yudkowsky

Eliezer Yudkowsky is an AI researcher
and prolific writer of things that make
us all a bit less error-prone.

I think he’s one of the most insightful
people alive right now, and we should
listen to him carefully.

Good or bad, please write to
joe@joekel.ly
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