March 25th, 2013



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

74.1 If people usually don't fear death,
       how can death be used to scare them?
74.2 If people are made to fear death,
       and you catch them and kill them when they act oddly,
       who would dare?
74.3 There are always executioners.
       And to kill in the place of an executioner
       is taking the place of a master carver.
       Those who take the place of a master carver
       rarely avoid cutting their hands.

Tao Teh Ching - Cleary Translation