"The unyielding army will not win."
Tao Te Ching - Chapter 76
The Taoist Classic by Lao Tzu
Translated and Explained
People are born soft and weak.
They die hard and stiff.
All things such as grass and trees
Are soft and supple in life.
At their death they are withered and dry.
So, the hard and stiff are death's companions.
The soft and weak are life's companions.
The unyielding army will not win.
The rigid tree will be felled.
The rigid and big belong below.
The soft and weak belong above.
Life Is Soft and Weak
Lao Tzu uses drastic imagery, comparing the newborn
baby with the dead corpse, the former being soft and the
latter stiffening in rigor mortis. The fact that we stiffen after
death confirms the point he wants to make.
Life is characterized by supple softness, growth, and
the ability to adapt. Death is rigid, and the only change
coming is that into dust.
The world certainly shows with all possible clarity
what we should be in life, and what leads to death.
These self-evident conditions to life can be applied to
so much within it. In war, the army that can move and
adapt is most likely to win the war. Trees that harden and start
to dry up inside will be felled by wind or by ax. If not, they
finally fall by themselves.
The rigid, no matter how proudly it rose above
everything else, will tumble. The soft and yielding, no matter
how small it was in the beginning, will move upwards in its
continued adaption, until it rises above all. As long as it
keeps its supple vitality, it will grow and advance.
That goes for living beings as well as for their ventures.
It's true on so many levels. The biggest company in
the world will soon go bankrupt if it doesn't adapt to
changes in its line of business. The greatest nation will perish if
it refuses to recognize changes inside or outside its borders.
A leader who can't compromise will soon lose his power.
An expert who rejects new discoveries descends into
ignorance. A person who ceases to be curious grows tired and loses
the lust for life.
We live as long as we adapt to life, which
always changes. We start dying at the moment we begin to
oppose that fundamental fact of life. There's the essence of
© Stefan Stenudd.
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