Tao Te Ching #41: “If they didn’t laugh at it, it wouldn’t be the Way”

Van Gogh's Early Years Human Voices Wake Us

Tonight, we enter into the early years of Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), from his birth in the village of Zundert in the Netherlands, to his time in the Borinage mining region of Belgium. It was there, at the age of twenty-seven—and after years of personal and professional failures—that he hit bottom … and suddenly realized he was an artist. In the first half of the episode, I read from Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith’s biography, Van Gogh: The Life. The second half is devoted to a handful of letters Van Gogh wrote to his brother in 1879 and 1880, where he admits the humiliation of his failures, and then revels in his newfound passion for drawing and painting. The letters can be found online here. You can join Human Voices Wake Us on Patreon, or sign up for our newsletter, by clicking here. I assume that the small amount of work presented in each episode constitutes fair use. Publishers, authors, or other copyright holders who would prefer to not have their work presented here can also email me at humanvoiceswakeus1@gmail.com, and I will remove the episode immediately. — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/humanvoiceswakeus/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/humanvoiceswakeus/support
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When superior people hear of the Way,
they carry it out with diligence.
When middling people hear of the Way,
it sometimes seems to be there, sometimes not.
When lesser people hear of the Way,
they ridicule it greatly.
If they didn’t laugh at it,
it wouldn’t be the Way.
So there are constructive sayings on this:
The Way of illumination seems dark,
the Way of advancement seems retiring,
the Way of equality seems to categorize;
higher virtue seems empty,
great purity seems ignominious,
broad virtue seems insufficient,
constructive virtue seems careless.
Simply honesty seems changeable,
great range has no boundaries,
great vessels are finished late;
the great sound has a rarefied tone,
the great image has no form,
the Way hides in namelessness.
Only the Way can enhance and perfect.

– Thomas Cleary

 

When superior people hear of the Way
they follow it with devotion
when average people hear of the Way
they wonder if it exists
when inferior people hear of the Way
they laugh out loud
if they didn’t laught
it wouldn’t be the Way
hence these sayings arose
the brightest path seems dark
the path leading forward seems backward
the smoothest path seems rough
the highest virtue low
the whitest white pitch-black
the greatest virtue wanting
the staunchest virtue timid
the truest truth uncertain
the perfect square without corners
the perfect tool without uses
the perfect sound hushed
the perfect image without form
for the Tao is hidden and nameless
but because it’s the Tao
it knows how to start and how to finish

– Red Pine

 

When men of service hearken to the Way,
The lofty strive to see it applied,
The average cannot seem to decide,
While the lower sort grandly deride.
Their derision makes Dao’s reputation.
So the Words of Guidance says:
“Seers of the Way seem not to see,
And those who advance, to retreat.
The smoothest path seems unsure,
Honored virtue seems undistinguished,
Ample virtue unqualified,
Resolute virtue undependable,
Stable virtue unfaithful.
Pure white seems impure,
Broad planes lack angles,
Great works take time,
Mighty voices rarely sound,
Grand vision has no set design,
Unknown the Way and thus unnamed.”
But the Way it is, the Way alone,
That brings first motions to fruition.

– Moss Roberts

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