July 11th, 2010

Chapter 58

When the country is governed through simplicity and leniency,
The people are genuine and honest.
When the country is governed through harshness and sharp investigation,
The people are more deceitful and dishonest.
From misfortune, good fortune is derived;
From good fortune, misfortune is conceived.
Who can determine the ultimate truth?
Or is there no ultimate truth at all?
As truth often turns out to be untruth,
Goodness often turns out to be evil.
This has long confused the people.
Thus, when the wise deals with things he is firm in his principles,
Yet not sharp.
He is pure, yet not harmful.
He is straightforward , yet not violent.
He is illuminated, yet not glittery.

Translated by Chang Chung-yuan, 1975,


When the country is ruled with a light hand
The people are simple.
When the country is ruled with severity,
The people are cunning.

Happiness is rooted in misery.
Misery lurks beneath happiness.
Who knows what the future holds?
There is no honesty.
Honesty becomes dishonest.
Goodness becomes witchcraft.
Man's bewitchment lasts for a long time.

Therefore the sage is sharp but not cutting,
Pointed but not piercing,
Straightforward but not unrestrained,
Brilliant but not blinding.
When a nation is ruled
with a light touch,
people lead simple lives.
When a government
is harsh and demanding,
people will spend their time
trying to outsmart it.

Happiness is rooted in misery,
and misery lurks beneath all joy.
Who knows what could happen tomorrow?

Everything is relative;
what's considered proper today
may become improper.
Correct appearances
may hide dishonesty and sinfulness.

No wonder so many people get confused.

The Masters have sharp minds,
not sharp tongues.
They are austere,
but never judgmental.
They are straightforward,
but not provocative.
They are brilliant,
but not flashy.

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