To Live

02023-05-16 | Book, Travel | 1 comment

Flying home yesterday I had a lot of time to look at an old friend, the Tao Te Ching as told by Ursula K. LeGuin. I read the notes that follow her rendition–she doesn’t speak Chinese and makes it clear that it is not a translation–and they are quite wonderful. 

Evidently we aren’t the only society or generation to puzzle over what a family is and ought to be.

Or this one:

There are times Lao Tzu sounds very like Henry David Thoreau, but Lao Tzu was kinder. When Thoreau says to distrust any enterprise that requires new clothes, I distrust him. He is macho, flaunting his asceticism. Lao Tzu knows that getting all entangled with the external keeps us from the eternal, but (see chapter 80) he also understands that sometimes people like to get dressed up.

He is macho, flaunting his asceticism. :-)

I love LeGuin’s directness. Take the example of chapter 33. One translation I have says:

Die without perishing and your life will endure.

Pretty mystical, that translation. Or here is another one:

Those who die without being forgotten get longevity.

A little more simple, but not quite to the point, equating life with remembrance.

Here is LeGuin’s version:

To live till you die is to live long enough.


I shall end this post with another wonderful observation in LeGuin’s notes:

Having replaced instinct with language, society, and culture, we are the only species that depends on teaching and learning. We aren’t human without them. In them is true power. But are they the occupations of the rich and mighty?

1 Comment

  1. JaneParham

    “Die without perishing and your life will endure.”

    I caught something here. Beginning to absorb this, I see a distant beam of light and a direction: If I complete my life without letting joy, passion, daring, adventure, courage, talent, beauty perish from my existence, I will somehow continue on my journey, or someone will. There is where I need to see more.

    Three cheers for Ursula! Thank you, Ottmar.


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