Tao Te Ching #2: “When everyone knows beauty is beauty”

When everyone knows beauty is beauty,
this is bad.
When everyone knows good is good,
this is not good.
So being and nonbeing produce each other:
difficulty and ease complement each other,
long and short shape each other,
high and low contrast with each other,
voice and echoes conform to each other,
before and after go along with each other.
So sages manage effortless service [wu-wei]
and carry out unspoken guidance.
All beings work, without exception:
if they live with possessiveness,
act without presumption,
and do not dwell on success,
then by this very nondwelling
success will not leave.

– Thomas Cleary


All the world knows beauty
but if that becomes beautiful
this becomes ugly
all the world knows good
but if that becomes good
this becomes bad
have and have not create each other
hard and easy produce each other
long and short shape each other
high and low complete each other
note and noise accompany each other
first and last follow each other
sages therefore perform effortless deeds [wu-wei]
and teach wordless lessons
they don’t look after all the things that arise
or depend on them as they develop
or claim them when they reach perfection
and because they don’t claim them
they are never without them

– Red Pine


In every fair the world considers fair
There’s foul;
In every good the world considers good
There’s ill.
For what is what is not yields,
And the harder the easier consummates;
The long the short decides,
And high lower measures;
Bronze gongs jade chimes join,
And former latter sequence form,
Ever round, and round again.
This is why the man of wisdom
Concerns himself with under-acting [wu-wei]
And applies the lesson
Of the word unspoken,
That all ten thousand may come forth
Without his direction,
Live through their lives
Without his possession,
And act of themselves
Unbeholden to him.
To the work he completes
He lays down no claim.
And this has everything to do
With why his claim holds always true.

– Moss Roberts

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