Nothing other than a missing period stood out today. The translations / interpretation is pretty straightforward. I shortened the formal xī (歙) inhale through the nose to simply inhale. Truth be told, there is a difference, as you will see if you ‘consciously’ inhale through the nose. Our breathing often reflects the life tensions we harbor. Relaxing enough to open up and take a full breath through the nose (not the mouth) really helps ground us during stressful circumstances. I suppose I felt inhale through the nose fails to convey this subtly well enough. That probably means I’ll change it back someday.
D.C. Lau’s last two lines don’t convey what I see the characters say. His interpretation is, The fish must not be allowed to leave the deep; The instrument of power in a state must not be revealed to anyone. I can’t help but hear undertones of free will. More importantly, the characters more literally say, Fish can’t escape from the deep. A country’s weapons can’t instruct the people.
As I see it, the idea of ‘allowing the fish to leave the deep’ is not an option. Frankly, we can only see the ‘fish’ we want to see. The ‘deep’ is more about a depth of mind of the observer, that anything ‘out there’. Depth of mind naturally sees the deeper fish, so to speak. Thus, it is not a question of “allowing” or not, but rather, about how deep ‘fish can’t escape from the deep‘. The same applies to the so called “instruments of power”. Our own fears and needs blind us to the obvious. Everything is open for view in nature; it is our blind spot that obstructs perception.
I’ve always liked the way D.C. Lau translated the beginning of this chapter. Maybe this is an example of when more words can actually say more, even if it isn’t exactly what the original says?
If you would have a thing shrink,
You must first stretch it;
If you would have a thing weakened,
You must first strengthen it;
If you would have a thing laid aside,
You must first set it up;
If you would take from a thing,
You must first give to it.
His, If you would have a thing weakened, You must first strengthen it is another way of considering entropy. It is not that entropy is a desirable goal in life. Just the opposite usually; life’s main task is resisting entropy. However, it is the cold hard reality. Coming to terms with how nature works is the only way to find contentment, and well, ‘peace on earth’. Roller coasters are a good metaphor for life. Gestation in the womb is the cog-journey to the top of the ride. Birth is the rush into life. As time goes by, the ups and downs gradually smooth out. One begins to see the ups when down, and the downs when up. It’s called perspective. Knowing the process helps cope with the ups and downs a little better, I find… as I head toward the end of my ride.
Just a few more words on the last two lines:
The Chinese says the “fish can not escape the deep”, not as Lau puts it, The fish must not be allowed to leave the deep. This is significant. The former is attempting to reveal what nature is really like. The later is attempting to tell us what we should do to ‘control’ nature. In my view, the principles (truths, axioms) the Tao Te Ching speaks about are self evident and knowable to all. The only reason we can’t see the self-evidence is that it doesn’t show us what we desire to see. That is why the sage did not use it to enlighten
the people but to hoodwink them. Not only the sage, but also biology (see How the Hoodwink Hooks).
In desiring to inhale, one must first open up.
In desiring weakness, one must first strive.
In desiring to let go, one must first begin.
In desiring to take, one must first give.
This saying is little understood.
Weakness is superior to strength.
Fish can’t escape from the deep.
A country’s weapons can’t instruct the people.