Saturday, October 29, 2005

tao teh ching 24

He who stands on tiptoe is not steady.
He who strides cannot maintain the pace.
He who makes a show is not enlightened.
He who is self-righteous is not respected.
He who boasts achieves nothing.
He who brags will not endure.
According to followers of the Tao,
'These are extra food and unnecessary baggage'.
They do not bring happiness[1],
Therefore followers of the Tao avoid them.

[1] Both Lau and the Ma wang tui text here read 'Since there are those that hate such things...'

WangPi doesn't have much to add except that he sees 'standing on tiptoes' as seeking political advancement and 'striding' as flaunting oneself.

Cheng says only: Fascination with oneself, self-righteousness, self-promotion and gloating are all products of chapter 22 (*). Another explanation for this section might be that a man of Tao will not travel the paths of eating in excess or doing what is questionable.

(*) That is to say, the negative qualities warned against in chapter 22.
There Cheng takes issue with Lao-tze for proposing the contraries of just these qualities as being the more intelligent path; here he seems to concur as regards the negative effects that naturally stem from them.
Be it said, I find his commentary both confusing and challenging.

For me, this chapter has to do with recognising, deciding to act within and maintaining 'authenticity' - 'genuineness'.
It is fairly certain that braggarts get ahead in the world for a while, but that whatever they set their hands to brings with it certain collapse - often with wide-spread consequences. 'Standing on tiptoe' as I understand it, is trying to have oneslef noticed - to stick out above the crowd.
An interpretation of the second line I like (not least because I've noticed it to be true in practice) is that those who stride generally have no idea how to just stroll, amble... Striders are always 'going somewhere', always have some 'important thing' to do... Amblers... amble...
Best when one knows how to do both, no?... To stride when striding is called for, and then take one's time when time there is for that.
Authenticity does not require continuous publicity and advertisement. On the contrary, trying to push ahead is a sure sign of a lack of confidence in oneself or a lack of security in what one imagines one's position is. Those who really master what they know and are are generally quite extraordinarily content to just get on with the details of their lives without too much fuss - and without looking left or right (or up and down) to see what other people have got that they haven't.

I'm reminded here of the fable of the dog with the bone that saw itself reflected in the water and tried to get the bone that dog had...

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