Limits: Translations, even my nearly literal one above, invariably lose some of the ancient ‘original intention’ due to the modern cultural context we bring to our language’s words… our ‘education’. Studying the Word-for-Word translation of the Chinese character’s many synonym-like meanings helps mitigate this. (Click graphic at right for on-line Word-for-Word.)
One adept in being a person is not militant.
One adept in battle is not enraged.
One adept in victory over enemies does not participate.
One adept in utilizing people acts from the lower position.
This is called the moral character of not contending.
This is called employing the ability of the people.
This is called matching of Nature’s ancient utmost.
Chapter of the Month
Line 1: I’ve always felt scholar was not the best word, but it was better than bachelor was. Today, person felt to be a better choice for the shì (士). At a minimum, person defines us all, which isn’t true of the other ‘synonyms’. Here’s the word for word for that line:
good (satisfactory; be adept in) do (act; act as; serve as; be; mean; support) bachelor (scholar; person) (者) no (not) military (valiant, fierce). 善为士者不武。(shàn wéi shì zhĕ bù wŭ.)
Line 4: Giant oops here! Somewhere along the line, my poetic interpretation of this line was dropped. Although, the word for word section below remained intact. I went back and found I’d noted that mistake in the first proof, but somehow I never followed up on it… amateurs! 😉
The last line, This is called matching of Nature’s ancient utmost, struck me today. Not right off the bat however. The wording puzzled me at first. And to think, I’m the one who chose those words in the first place. J
I feel it is essential to keep perception as loose as comfortably possible in order to prevent pre-conceptions from obstructing the ‘bigger picture’. By bigger picture, I suppose I really mean the view from the living moment, and not some remembered ‘cliché’.
Keeping the translation as close to the Chinese as possible makes it somewhat less susceptible to cliché; one has to work to breathe meaning into the words. So, I looked down at the word for word section to breathe life into the words.
First, what does nature’s ancient utmost mean? I see, “sky (heaven; day; season; nature; God) ancient (age-old) of extreme (pole, utmost)”. My experience of life—”the days, seasons, nature”—is one of peaks and valleys—”extremes, poles, utmost”—and plenty of level times in between. My experience is really an ongoing relationship—”join in marriage, mate, match”—that I’m having with nature through the seasons of my life.
In my clearest and most tranquil moments, I feel “married” to nature. This parallels the nun’s or monk’s sense of being married to God, or to Jesus… in the best sense of that view. Different words, same reality…, which highlights how words can so easily trap perception into pre-conception and bias!