Tao Te Ching #64: “The most massive tree grows from a sprout, the highest building rises from a pile of earth, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a step”

What is at rest
is easy to hold.
What has not shown up
is easy to take into account.
What is frail
is easy to break.
What is vague
is easy to dispel.

Do it before it exists;
govern it before there’s disorder.
The most massive tree grows from a sprout;
the highest building rises from a pile of earth;
a journey of a thousand miles begins with a step.
Those who contrive spoil it;
those who cling lose it.

Thus sages contrive nothing,
and so spoil nothing.
They cling to nothing,
and so lose nothing.

Therefore people’s works
are always on the verge of completion.
Be as careful of the end
as of the beginning,
and nothing will be spoiled.

Thus sages want to have no wants;
they do not value goods hard to get.
They learn not learning
to recover from people’s excesses,
thereby to assist
the naturalness of all beings,
without daring to contrive.

– Thomas Cleary


It’s easy to rule while it’s peaceful
it’s easy to plan for before it appears
it’s easy to break while it’s fragile
it’s easy to disperse while it’s small
act before anything exists
govern before anyone rebels
a giant tree grows from the tiniest shoot
a great tower rises from a basket of dirt
a thousand-mile journey begins at your feet
but to act is to fall
to control is to lose
sages therefore don’t act
thus they don’t fail
they don’t control
thus they don’t lose
when people pursue a task
failure occurs near the end
care at the end as well as the start
means an end to failure
sages thus seek what no one else seeks
they don’t prize hard-to-get goods
they study what no one else studies
they turn to what others pass by
to help all things remain natural
they dare not act

– Red Pine


What’s stable is easy to secure,
The unmanifest to plan against,
The fragile to splinter,
The incipient to dissolve.
Act before events occur:
Decision can prevent disorder.
A tree of girth
Grows from a twig.
A nine-tier tower
From a basket of earth;
And a thousand-mile journey
Begins where one stands.

Those who take the lead shall fall.
Those who cling lose hold.
This is why men of wisdom,
Taking no lead, do not fail,
Not clinging, do not lose hold.
How often do people, assuming a task,
Ruin it at the verge of success?
Hence the saying,
“Careful at the end as at the start,
And your task shall not abort.”
This is why the worldly wise
Seek what others do not seek,
“Prize no goods hard to find,”
Learn what others do not learn:
Redeem the wrongs many have done.
In this way support and sustain
The self-becoming of the myriad,
And do not presume to act upon them.

– Moss Roberts