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"The most abundant seems empty."

Tao Te Ching - Chapter 45

Tao Te Ching, by Lao Tzu.

The Taoist Classic by Lao Tzu
Translated and Explained


45

The most complete seems lacking.

Yet in use it is not exhausted.

The most abundant seems empty.

Yet in use it is not drained.


The most straight seems curved.

The most able seems clumsy.

The most eloquent seems to stutter.


Movement overcomes cold.

Stillness overcomes heat.

Peace and quiet govern the world.



Appearances

Things aren't what they seem. We should not trust our perception, because it's rooted in our own mind's preconceptions. We often only see what we want to see, or what we expect to see. That may make life seem more agreeable to us, but it certainly flaws our judgment. Therefore, our actions easily go astray.

       What is complete is whole, whereas we have a tendency to break things apart in order to find a quantity that overwhelms us. The whole is just one. We want many, and we don't see how anything less can be sufficient. But when parts are separated from the whole, they stop to function and deteriorate. Only the complexity of the whole is enough for all and forever.

       Vast abundance is not perceivable, so we experience it as diluted and desolate. What is everywhere is invisible to us, like the air around us. Our perception is focused on anomalies, on things that deviate from the mean.

       That might be practical for our survival, but it also confuses our understanding of the world. We tend to make exceptions the rule, and miss the fundamental order of things.


The Fragile Environment

Also, sadly, we underestimate the importance of the fundamental components of our world. It took us far too long to realize our dependence on the environment we live in, because we have taken it for granted.

       Lao Tzu's philosophy is firmly environmentalist, although his text precedes the invention of the word with more than two thousand years. He urges mankind to avoid interfering with the natural processes, or we do harm to them.

       That's because we don't observe their importance, since we can't see their greatness. We cease to be aware of what we take for granted.

       So, we have thoughtlessly polluted the very air that we breathe, because we can't see it. We also poison the water that we drink and the soil on which we grow what we eat. We treat our whole world as if it's dispensable.

       Only now, on the verge collapse, have we been forced to realize the delicacy and importance of balance.


Skill

As for human perfection, we find it so rarely that we don't know what to make of it.

       Those who really choose their words with care seem hesitant, even unsure. Something very similar is seen with those who really master some craft. They go about it with a calm that can be mistaken for incompetence, but the result is flawless and it's accomplished with amazing swiftness.

       Refined movements look slow, because we perceive them clearly. The one who seems to move the slowest in a race is often the winner of it. When the foremost athletes excel in their sports, it looks so easy that we imagine we can do the same. That's the sign of perfection.


Balance

When Lao Tzu points out that movement overcomes cold and stillness overcomes heat, he points out the importance of balance. We know it to be quite true. Movement raises the temperature, and stillness decreases it. When we are cold we should get going and when we are hot we should calm down.

       That is also true for situations where the temperature is symbolic. In a heated argument, silence is called for. When relations get chilled and indifference grows, we should spring into action.

       The world benefits the most from peace and quiet, a state of balance and harmony. We can contribute to this if we remain sensitive to what is needed, and what is not.

© Stefan Stenudd.

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Tao Te Ching Explained


Preface


Introduction


Literature


The 81 Chapters of Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu
translated and explained by Stefan Stenudd.
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Tao Te Ching Explained


James Legge's Tao Te Ching


Aleister Crowley's Tao Te Ching


The 1st Chapter of Tao Te Ching in 76 Versions


Lao Tzu - Legendary Author of Tao Te Ching





My Taoism Books:


Tao Te Ching - The Taoism of Lao Tzu Explained. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Tao Te Ching

The Taoism of Lao Tzu Explained. The great Taoist philosophy classic by Lao Tzu translated, and each of the 81 chapters extensively commented. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.

       More about the book here.


Tao Quotes - the Ancient Wisdom of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Tao Quotes

The Ancient Wisdom of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. 389 quotes from the foremost Taoist classic, divided into 51 prominent topics. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.

       More about the book here.



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Other Books by Stefan Stenudd:


Cosmos of the Ancients. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Cosmos of the Ancients

The Greek philosophers and what they thought about cosmology, myth, and the gods. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.


QI - increase your life energy. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Qi - Increase Your Life Energy

The life energy qi (also chi or ki) explained, with exercises on how to awaken, increase and use it. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.


Aikido Principles. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Aikido Principles

Basic Concepts of the Peaceful Martial Art
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Sunday Brunch with the World Maker. Novel by Stefan Stenudd. Sunday Brunch with the World Maker

Fiction. A brunch conversation slips into the mysterious, soon to burst beyond the realm of possibility. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.


Stefan Stenudd, Swedish author of fiction and non-fiction. Stefan Stenudd


About me

I'm a Swedish author and aikido instructor. In addition to fiction, I've written books about Taoism and other East Asian traditions. I'm also an historian of ideas, researching ancient thought and mythology. Click the image to get to my personal website.

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