November 13th, 2009

Chapter sixty-one: Lying low

The polity of greatness
runs downhill like a river to the sea,
joining with everything,
woman to everything.

By stillness the woman
may always dominate the man,
lying quiet underneath him.

So a great country
submitting to small countries, dominates them;
so small countries,
submitting to the great one, dominate it.

Lie low to be on top,
be on top by lying low.

Lao Tsu, Tao te Ching.
Interpreted by Ursula K. Le Guin

The second stanza disturbs me a lot and makes me wary of all uses of sexual metaphor in spiritual writing. Sadly this flattens my enjoyment of a lot of Sufi and Hindu poetry
goban
  • trevoke

61

A great country is like low land.
It is the meeting ground of the universe,
The mother of the universe.

The female overcomes the male with stillness,
Lying low in stillness.

Therefore if a great country gives way to a smaller country,
It will conquer the smaller country.
And if a small country submits to a great country,
It can conquer the great country.
Therefore those who would conquer must yield,
And those who conquer do so because they yield.

A great nation needs more people;
A small country needs to serve.
Each gets what it wants.
It is fitting for a great nation to yield.
-
-
Power flows down
to every level of existence
like a river to the ocean.

Victory comes
from lying perfectly still
and waiting for power
to come your way.

If you yield to someone
less powerful than yourself,
you will be in a position
to influence them.

If you submit to someone
more powerful than yourself,
you create an opportunity
to get your own way.

So if you want to get ahead,
lay low and bide your time.
That way, everybody's happy.
-

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