by Lao Tzu
My own phrasing, based on two or three dozen translations from the Chinese. I continue to add verses to the BOTTOM of this post, so if you have read verse one, verses 2, 3, 4 etc. follow below it. Otherwise the verses would be in backwards order, which for some reason disturbs me profoundly. DG
Existence is beyond our ability to explain,
No language does justice to it.
To begin with no one even tried,
But since we are,
We have to explain ourselves.
Whether you view it with the objectivity of science,
Or the raw passion of one newly in love,
The universe is precisely the same.
Only the viewpoints differ.
If we have to give it a name
Call it The Great Mystery,
And from that Mystery arises all things.
When you decide something is beautiful,
You must think something else ugly.
Judging one person respectable,
You assume others unworthy.
Birth and death, though part of the same cycle,
Seem poised as opposites.
Difficult and easy are measures of effort,
Long and short measure distance,
High and low describe relationship;
But since it is the varying tones which create music,
And what is will soon be what was,
The rational person
Considers the circumstances
And remains flexible.
Takes the day as it comes,
As something to use, not to fret away.
To hold but not to grasp,
To accept with simplicity.
If you remain humble
You can't be humiliated.
If you heap praise and glory on a few
The work of the common man seems pointless.
Determine a man's worth by his display of wealth,
And you encourage envy and theft.
A wise society encourages compassion,
Teaches quiet self-reliance,
Creating such stability that cunning meddlers cannot corrupt it.
Without being forced or persuaded, people do the right thing.
Mystery with no beginning,
Was the beginning of everything.
The parent of the universe,
It wears out mountain ranges,
Watches the seasons wax and wane,
Lays the wind.
Like an unfailing spring it flows.
But how it began,
Life doesn't take sides,
It gives birth to both good and evil
A wise person doesn't take sides
Recognizing good and evil in everyone
The universe is like a bellows,
Appearing empty but ever full.
The more it yields the more it holds.
The more you try to explain it,
The less you understand.
A wise person learns from life,
And is never bewildered.
Existence is a spring on a rockface,
Its source hidden, yet inexhaustible:
Welling up from the root of the world,
Draw upon it; it will not run dry.
because it has no agenda.
The wise person is content,
because they meet life as it is,
And put themselves neither first nor last.
Water is an excellent example,
It benefits all, while always seeking the lowest level.
A house may be placed in the best location,
The mind may be kept quiet,
Associations chosen for their virtue,
Government for its ability to maintain peace and stability,
Actions must be taken at the appropriate time.
It takes two to maintain a quarrel.
It's hard to find fault with a peaceable man.
Overfill a cup and it is easily spilled,
Over-temper a sword and it shatters at the first blow.
Fill your house with treasure and it is easily carried away by thieves,
Boast of your accomplishments and others will find you insufferable,
Do your work well and let others acclaim you.
Embracing simplicity, you are more focused,
Breathing gently, you are revitalized,
Clearing your mind, you become wise,
Nurturing your children, you learn fairness,
Opening your heart to others, you are welcomed,
Accepting others as they are, you embrace Life itself.
Bearing and nurturing,
Creating but not owning,
Giving without obligation,
Results in harmony.