The Classic of the Way and Its Virtue

Before Rick and I agreed to meet for breakfast this morning we agreed to read, or, in my case, to re-read the Tao Teh Ching, this time translated by John C.H. Wu. Of course, I tended to skim large parts of it, paying particular attention to passages I’d marked as liking in previous readings.

As I read, I was again struck by chapter:


If only I had the tiniest grain of wisdom
I should walk in the Great Way,
And my only fear would be to stray from it.

The Great Way is very smooth and straight;
And yet the people prefer devious paths.

The court is very clean and well garnished,
But the fields are very weedy and wild,
And the granaries are very empty!
They wear gorgeous clothes,
They carry sharp swords,
They surfeit themselves with food and drink,
They possess more riches than they can use!
They are the heralds of brigandage!
As for Tao, what do they know about it?

Know any politicians who seem to “prefer devious paths“? Any who wear “gorgeous clothes,” “carry sharp swords?” Any who “possess more riches than they can use?”

Is it any wonder that “brigandage” pervades the Republican party when party leaders are willing to sell themselves to the highest bidder in order to ensure their re-election?

Do you really think they’ve insisted on cutting taxes for the wealthiest one percent of the population without extracting some benefit from the betrayal of the democratic dream of equality? I’d love to hear an argument that tried to prove that the multi-millionaire executive who runs the company and a the laborer who earns $10, 712 a year, the amount working a full year at minimum wage for that company are EQUAL in any real sense of that word.

5 thoughts on “The Classic of the Way and Its Virtue”

  1. Oh, I agree. People who have far more than they need have to be dull to want to acquire that much. The laborer will work hard and may obsess over getting enough to meet his needs but the pursuit doesn’t dull his senses to the world around him, at least not the way that the rich, shielded from need, are dulled. I think people are designed for survival stress and the experience of it is what makes empathy possible. How can a multi-millionaire empathize with a widow who is having to choose between food and medicine? When the wealthy run the government, you have trouble. Look at the immigration debate. Congress looks like an ant hill that’s been kicked.
    Are you for the guest worker program?

  2. I’ll have to admit to being torn between a “guest worker program” and sharply limiting immigration at all.

    I live in an area that, in my opinion, is already overpopulated. Too many people want to live in the Seattle area. In fact, the whole West Coast, the only area I’m familiar with, except for a few areas, already has enough, or too many people.

    On the other hand, I don’t like to exploit workers by saying that you can come here and work for cheap labor, but then you have to go home. You can’t stay here because we don’t want you. That seems unacceptable to me.

    I guess I’m thinking on writing a longer, more substantiated entry on this.

  3. I feel the same tension, and look forward to your analysis. I suppose it’s natural to protect what we have. To those who have more, we say share. To those with less, stay on your side of the border. Many people in Latin America, reading the chapter you quoted above, would immediately think of us as the brigands. Our notions of equality become elastic when we consider our dealings with the rest of the world. There’s something odd in the notion of European Americans talking about outsiders intruding on our land. Last week, the New Yorker ran a cartoon showing “indigenous people? watching the pilgrims approaching the shore. One says, “I don’t know. They look pretty undocumented to me.?

  4. Yah, but i don’t much care what rich people and politicians wear and those old chinese guys like to administer beatings and get drunk on plum wine and write sad poems about failing their civil service examsand tears falling from peach blossoms and stuff….they were probably self-righteous hypocrites just like the rest of us ….. but my point is that ah the rich have always gotten richer and perpetuated themselves and equality is a socilaistic rather than Democratic dream. The US was founded as a Republic not a democracy and the dream was for liberty, Justice and representative governmnet of, by and for the people.


  5. It seems like this must have been written years ago, or tomorrow, Gomer.

    The Tao Teh Ching certainly seems Classic in how relevant it remains.

    I realize America was born as Republic not a democracy, but I still think “equality” was part of the founding dream, not just a later socialistic addendum.

    America has a unique way of trying to balance what seem to be opposing values, like “individualism” and “we the people.”

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