The average student hears of the Tao and gives it thought now and again.
The foolish student hears of the Tao and laughs aloud.
If there were no laughter, the Tao would not be what it is.
Hence it is said:
The bright path seems dim;
Going forward seems like retreat;
The easy way seems hard;
The highest Virtue seems empty;
Great purity seems sullied;
A wealth of Virtue seems inadequate;
The strength of Virtue seems frail;
Real Virtue seems unreal;
The perfect square has no corners;
Great talents ripen late;
The highest notes are hard to hear;
The greatest form has no shape;
The Tao is hidden and without name.
The Tao alone nourishes and brings everything to fulfillment.
When a wise person hears about Tao,
he gets right with it.
When an ordinary person
hears about Tao,
he tries to get right with it,
but eventually gives up.
When a fool hears about Tao,
he just laughs and laughs.
If he didn't laugh, it wouldn't be Tao.
Here's what they find so funny:
The path to enlightenment
seems covered in shadows.
The way forward
feels like taking a step back.
The easiest path seems difficult.
Those with the most virtue
Those who are most pure
seem to be grubby and soiled.
The deepest thoughts appear shallow.
The greatest strength
looks like weakness.
What is most real
strikes us as imaginary.
The largest space has no boundaries.
The greatest talent
seems to produce nothing.
The greatest voice is unhearable.
The greatest beauty is invisible.
Tao is hidden to us
and it has no name.
It is the source and the strength of all things.