October 25th, 2009

Chapter forty-two: Children of the Way

The Way bears one.
The one bears two.
The two bear three.
The three bear the ten thousand things.
The ten thousand things
carry the yin on their shoulders
and hold in their arms the yang,
whose interplay of energy
makes harmony.

People despise
orphans, widows, outcasts,
yet that's what kings and rulers call themselves.
Whatever you lose, you've won.
Whatever you win, you've lost.

What others teach, I say too:
violence and aggression
destroy themselves.
My teaching rests on that.

Lao Tsu, interpreted by Ursula Le Guin
  • trevoke


The Tao begot one.
One begot two.
Two begot three.
And three begot the ten thousand things.

The ten thousand things carry yin and embrace yang.
They achieve harmony by combining these forces.

Men hate to be "orphaned," "widowed," or "worthless,"
But this is how kings and lords describe themselves.

For one gains by losing
And loses by gaining.

What others teach, I also teach; that is:
"A violent man will die a violent death!"
This will be the essence of my teaching.
Chapter 42 starts out
with some cosmic mumbo-jumbo
about Tao making one,
one making two,
two making three,
and three making everything else.

I don't know what it means,
and, frankly,
I wouldn't worry about it too much.

Let's get to the practical part:
Men hate to be called
powerless, insignificant, or unworthy,
but that's how
Masters describe themselves.

Because when we lose, we've won.
And when we succeed, we've failed.

Other people will tell you
what I'm telling you now:
"Live by the sword, die by the sword."
That's pretty much what Chapter 42
boils down to.
(See Chapter 46 for more details.)

The first version is from the Fortune files. The second version is the Beatrice Tao.