"He does not show off,
therefore he shines."
Tao Te Ching - Chapter 22
The Taoist Classic by Lao Tzu
Translated and Explained
Hulk to be whole.
Bend to be straight.
Empty to be filled.
Wear down to be renewed.
Reduce to gain.
Therefore, the sage embraces the one,
And is an example to the world.
He does not show off, therefore he shines.
He does not justify himself, therefore he is revered.
He does not boast, therefore he is honored.
He does not praise himself, therefore he remains.
Because he opposes no one,
No one in the world can oppose him.
The ancients said:
Hulk to be whole.
Are these just empty words?
Indeed, he shall remain whole.
Humility Brings Honor
"Blessed are the meek," said Jesus, and continued: "for
they will inherit the earth." That's also Lao Tzu's message in
this chapter. Humility is praised, whereas its opposite
meets with protests and contempt.
It's not a question of envy. We can live with the
success of others, even congratulate them wholeheartedly. But
not if they brag. We accept that other people have power
over our lives, but not if they are rude. We need to feel that
privileged people are worthy of their privileges. At least,
we don't want them to be unworthy. That upsets us.
We expect life and civilization to have some kind
of built-in justice. That may be naïve, stemming from the
morals of fairy tales, myths, and legends. It's also the
principle applied to just about every Hollywood movie. We
would loathe a movie ending with the villain being victorious
at the cost of our hero.
Aristotle pointed it out in The
Poetics, his text on the rules of drama. The audience can come to terms with
the good and virtuous meeting a tragic end, but not with
the bad and immoral achieving final success. It would
upset and disgust us. Every playwright since before
Aristotle's time has been aware of this, so a drama ending in
conflict with this principle is mighty hard to find.
We would really like life to be the same. So,
whenever we have the chance, we act to make it so. We hurry to
condemn people who don't behave nobly in their splendor,
and we take any chance to strip them of their privileges.
Even kings can fall, when confronted with this power of
The only thing they have to do in order for us to
accept their good fortune is to be modest about it. Then we
To Lao Tzu, this is more than a necessity to avoid
provoking others. It's in accordance with nature and the
principle of Tao. The universal world order of Tao is meek. It
acts in a submissive way, but still it rules the universe. The
world is run by yielding principles, so we must do the same in
order to succeed with our intentions.
We might not always be successful when walking
this path, but we are sure to fail miserably if we choose the
opposite direction. Neither mankind nor nature will comply.
© Stefan Stenudd.
Tao Te Ching Explained
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