July 27th, 2010



If men are not afraid to die,
It is no avail to threaten them with death.

If men live in constant fear of dying,
And if breaking the law means that a man will be killed,
Who will dare to break the law?

There is always an official executioner.
If you try to take his place,
It is like trying to be a master carpenter and cutting wood.
If you try to cut wood like a master carpenter, you will only hurt your hand.
If people's lives suck,
and they look forward to death,
what good does it do
to threaten to kill them?

If people are afraid to die,
and the wicked are condemned to death,
then who would dare to commit evil?

But that doesn't mean you or I
can just take life and death
into our own hands.
That'd be like walking up
to an industrial buzzsaw
and trying to use it
without any training.
We'd only end up hurting ourselves.

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

Chapter 74

Men are no longer afraid to die,
Why should we frighten then with dying?
If men were still as afraid of death as they used to be,
We could catch a criminal and put him to death.
Who would have the courage to commit a crime?
(In nature), there is always one who is responsible for ending the life of man.
If we take over the responsibility of killing,
It is just like taking over the great lumberjack's work of cutting wood.
If we take over the great lumberjack's work of cutting,
We can hardly help but hurt our hands.

                       Translation by Chang Chung-yuan,  1975.