Tao Te Ching
THE TAOISM OF LAO TZU
Fake Lao Tzu Quote
"An ant on the move..."
This is NOT a quote from Tao Te Ching:
"An ant on the move does more than a dozing ox."
There is no ant in Tao Te Ching, nor is there an ox except for a "feast of the ox" mentioned in chapter 20, which was the t'ai-lao sacrifice at spring. The saying here is humorous, but Lao Tzu would probably have frowned at it. His message of wu-wei, non-action, was closer to the dozing ox than the ant on the move.
The oldest book I have found with this exact quote is Folk Wisdom of Mexico from 1994, by Jeff M. Sellers (page 36). It is called an anonymous Mexican proverb. Other books published later have also used the quote, describing it as a Mexican proverb.
It is hard to see how Bredenberg could make the mistake of ascribing a Mexican proverb to Lao Tzu, but there it is. And several books that followed inherited the mistake — not to mention plenty of web pages and memes.
The oldest web page I have found containing the quote, with an ascertained date, is a blog post from August 7, 2008, accrediting it to Lao Tzu. On Facebook, the quote doesn't appear until February 2012 — in two posts, none ascribing the quote to anyone. The following year there is a post by Sunwarrior healthfood with a meme, ascribing the quote to Lao Tzu.
Not only Lao Tzu has been ascribed to the quote. On Goodreads, there is a listing of it as a Zen proverb. I even came across a web page accrediting it to Mike Tyson.
September 13, 2020.
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