Tao Te Ching —
The Classic about Ways And Instances
(Translated, with comments, by William P. Coleman)
Of old, those who were skilled at being were masters.
They were subtle and could penetrate deeply into natures;
they were too profound to be recognizable.
And, in fact, just because they couldn’t be recognized,
serious effort should be made to describe their appearance.
Cautious, as if wading in an icy stream;
watchful, alert to all four sides,
courteous, like a guest.
Dissolving like ice that’s about to melt;
solid like uncut wood;
open like a valley;
obscure as if muddied.
Who can be where it’s muddied?
It’s clarified, slowly, by stillness.
Who can be when they’re still?
It comes to life by patient movement.
Commit to this way
of not wanting fullness.
Exactly because of not being full,
you won’t grow old but will always renew.
|<– Chapter 14
||Chapter 16 –>|
For comparison, I’m including the translation by Lin Yutang, which I always love and respect, even when I disagree:
15. The Wise Ones of Old
The wise ones of old had subtle wisdom and depth of understanding,
So profound that they could not be understood.
And because they could not be understood,
Perforce must they be so described:
Cautious, like crossing a wintry stream,
Irresolute, like one fearing danger all around,
Grave, like one acting as guest,
Self-effacing, like ice beginning to melt,
Genuine, like a piece of undressed wood,
Open-minded, like a valley,
And mixing freely, like murky water.
Who can find repose in a muddy world?
By lying still, it becomes clear.
Who can maintain his calm for long?
By activity, it comes back to life.
He who embraces this Tao
Guards against being over-full.
Because he guards against being over-full,
He is beyond wearing out and renewal.