Tao Te Ching —
The Classic about Ways And Instances
(Translated, with comments, by William P. Coleman)
Heaven and earth have no favorites;
they treat all things like straw dogs.
The sage has no favorites;
he treats everyone like straw dogs.
The space between heaven and earth is like a bellows
—indeed, like the pipe of a bellows.
It is empty, but never exhausted;
it works, and still can produce more.
Too many words soon reach an end:
they cannot hold to the center.
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Perhaps this chapter should be read starting at the last part.
If I live my life goal-oriented — if my purpose is to finish, to complete, to get it all — then I’ll stop early, having run out of words to say, out of things to do, having run out of imagination.
But if my purpose is to keep running, then I can continue in the center of the path indefinitely. At each moment, I step forward — coming out of my past, asking for what I want then — and the world meets and accepts — out of the reality of what it has, out of its richness. These steps can go on forever.
The world itself works that way: it’s empty but never exhausted.
The world doesn’t play favorites; it continues realities. I may love — things and especially people — but I love someone out of what I have, not out of my prior prejudice. I love out of who I am, not what I imagine to be the case. Love like that can be kept up forever.
For comparison, I’m including the translation by Lin Yutang, which I always love and respect, even when I disagree:
Nature is unkind:
It treats the creation like sacrificial straw-dogs.
The Sage is unkind:
He treats the people like sacrificial straw-dogs.
How the universe is like a bellows!
Empty, yet it gives a supply that never fails;
The more it is worked, the more it brings forth.
By many words is wit exhausted.
Rather, therefore, hold to the core.