March 31st, 2013



A small country has fewer people.
Though there are machines that can work ten to a hundred times faster than man, they are not needed.
The people take death seriously and do not travel far.
Though they have boats and carriages, no one uses them.
Though they have armor and weapons, no one displays them.
Men return to the knotting of rope in place of writing.
Their food is plain and good, their clothes fine but simple, their homes secure;
They are happy in their ways.
Though they live within sight of their neighbors,
And crowing cocks and barking dogs are heard across the way,
Yet they leave each other in peace while they grow old and die.
Lao Tzu had a dream
about a small country
with very few people.

They didn't need machines
to get their work done faster.
They took their lives seriously,
and stayed close to home.

They may have owned
boats and carriages,
but they never went anywhere.
They may have owned weapons,
but they kept those weapons
locked up, securely hidden.
They had so few responsibilities,
they never had to make a To-Do list
to remember what had to be done.

They enjoyed simple foods,
dressed plainly,
lived comfortably,
and kept their traditions alive.

And even though
their neighbors were so close
they could hear
the dogs barking at night,
they had no interest
in leaving their homes,
where they grew old peacefully
and died.

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

Chapter 80

80.1 A small state has few people.
       It has the people keep arms
       but not use them.
       It has them regard death gravely
       and not go on distant campaigns.
80.2 Even if they have vehicles,
       they have nowhere to drive them.
       Even if they have weapons,
       they have nowhere to use them.
80.3 It has the people go back to simple techniques,
       relish their food,
       like their clothes,
       be comfortable in their ways,
       and enjoy their work.
80.4 Neighboring states may be so close
       they can hear each other's dogs and roosters,
       but they make it so that the people
       have never gone back and forth.

Tao Teh Ching - Cleary Translation