The people are hungry because taxes eat much,
That is why they are hungry.
The people are difficult to govern because of their expectations,
That is why they are difficult to govern.
The people take death lightly because they seek life’s flavor,
That is why they take death lightly.
Only the man without use for life is worthy of a noble life.
1) the people (civilian) of be hungry (starve; famish; famine; crop failure) use (<v> take <p> according to; because of <adj> so as to <conj> and) his (her; its; that; such) upper (up; higher; superior) eat (food; feed) tax of much (more; too many; excessive), 民之饥以其上食税之多，(mín zhī jī yĭ qí shàng shí shuì zhī duō,)
2) <grm> is (yes <frml> this; that) use (<v> take <p> according to; because of <adj> so as to <conj> and) be hungry (starve; famish; famine; crop failure). 是以饥。(shì yĭ jī.)
3) the people (civilian) of difficult (hard; troublesome) rule (govern; order; peace; > government; control) use (<v> take <p> according to; because of <adj> so as to <conj> and) his (her; its; that; such) upper (up; higher; superior) of have (exist) do (act; act as; serve as; be; mean; support), 民之难治以其上之有为，(mín zhī nán zhì yĭ qí shàng zhī yŏu wéi,)
4) <grm> is (yes <frml> this; that) use (<v> take <p> according to; because of <adj> so as to <conj> and) difficult (hard; troublesome) rule (govern; order; peace; > government; control). 是以难治。(shì yĭ nán zhì.)
5) the people (civilian) of light (softly, un-important, gently) die (extremely; deadly; fixed; rigid) use (<v> take <p> according to; because of <adj> so as to <conj> and) his (her; its; that; such) beg (request; seek; try; demand) give birth to (grow; existence; life) of thick (deep; large; generous; rich in flavor), 民之轻死以其求生之厚，(mín zhī qīng sĭ yĭ qí qiú shēng zhī hòu,)
6) <grm> is (yes <frml> this; that) use (<v> take <p> according to; because of <adj> so as to <conj> and) light (softly, un-important, gently) die (extremely; deadly; fixed; rigid). 是以轻死。(shì yĭ qīng sĭ.)
7) husband (man) only (alone) nothing (without; not) use (<v> take <p> according to; because of <adj> so as to <conj> and) give birth to (grow; existence; life) do (act; act as; serve as; be; mean; support) (者), <grm> is (yes <frml> this; that) virtuous (worthy, able) in (at, to, from, by, than, out of) expensive (precious; noble) give birth to (grow; existence; life). 夫唯无以生为者，是贤于贵生。(fū wéi wú yĭ shēng wéi zhĕ, shì xián yú guì shēng.)
Chapter of the Month
None per se…
Taking this personally, I wonder how do I “tax” myself, and in that way cause myself to be “hungry”. Now, I know many translations (interpretations) prefer to see this in a political context, along the lines of ‘Rulers tax the people, which makes them hungry’. Certainly, that has been the case throughout the history of civilization, with the poorest people carrying the greatest tax burden. But so what?
Bemoaning the ‘unfairness’ of it never changes it, as history shows. Hierarchical structure of civilization always means that the top will always be at the top! Even in revolutions against the established order, the ‘bottom’ takes over and settles into the ‘top’. Communism comes to mind, not as the ideals it professes, but rather as what it is in reality. Only when we leave our favoritism behind and see the natural process at work will we be able to deal with it in ways that are more effective and balanced. It will never be ‘perfect’ because civilization is an imperfect social construct for managing millions of ‘tribe mates’, but having the courage to face reality can only help improve our ability to deal with it.
Pointing fingers at suitable scapegoats whether those at the ‘top’ or ‘bottom’, comes very naturally. This instinctive approach works just fine in the wild, especially for the non-thinking animal kingdom. For us, that train has left the station. Our thinking gets us into trouble. Our only hope to mitigate this is through more impartial thinking. Given how much emotion drives thought, this is a lot easier said than done!
Just what is a noble life? Take a look at the character meanings, 贵 (guì) 生(shēng). expensive (precious; noble) give birth to (grow; existence; life). When I am not expecting more out of life than I am giving to life each moment, I feel worthy of a noble life. It isn’t that I sit passive and let the world run me over. Indeed, it has nothing to do with activity; it is simply doing without doing — wéi wú wéi (为无为). As chapter 3 and 63 say,
I imagine that comes off sounding a bit too passive. However, it really means being at one with the moment, applying 100% of my awareness to that alone, and nothing to thoughts that feed hungry expectations, i.e., expectations are merely the ‘doing’ that takes place in the mind… a mental doing with
out doing, so to speak.
Naturally, Doing without doing is not possible to practice perfectly.; we can’t practice what we preach because of that nasty old thinking disease (re: chapter 71). Even so, it helps to see this as speaking to what is simply and naturally so. All I need to do is ‘follow’ that which is naturally so, and remain imperfectly perfect… or is it perfectly imperfect. Either way, that is doable.
Immortality is a state of mind.
Last night I was semi dreaming, semi thinking of my parents and my brother. I will soon be joining them in death. I often feel this in a general way, joining all those who have gone before. Feeling connected to all those who have gone before and to the past, imparts a sense of immortality. That is, as long as the feeling is absent expectations or longings. Impartiality is essential. This experience is another aspect of the ‘fact’ that time is merely a reflection of our expectations. Only the man without use for life is worthy of a noble life. A lust for life, or as this chapter put it seek life’s flavor, returns death. Or as chapter 50 says,
Work in Progress
There was just one extraneous comma to delete this time. On the last line, there was some misconstruing of the meaning of noble life… Only the man without use for life is worthy of a noble life. Some took that to refer to royalty—’the Nobilty’, kings, queens. The actual word is guì (贵) which means expensive; costly; dear; highly valued; valuable; precious; of high rank; noble.
The last meaning, noble, fits best in my view. The myth perpetuated for ‘the Nobility’ was that these classes of people were noble. A good example of the meaning here would be a firefighter who rushes into a burning building to save someone without regard for his own life.
This lays out the facts of life in the bluntest way that only the Tao Te Ching is usually capable. I love it. The people are difficult to govern because of their expectations explains what is ‘wrong’ with politics ‘today’. Of course, it is always ‘today’ when it comes to problems caused by people’s expectations. To see the various factions all clamoring for their piece of the pie is so tribal, and naturally so (being the tribal animal species that we are). What amazes me is why I have trouble taking that at face value. If I see dogs fighting over a bone, I just chalk it up to their animal nature. Why is it always a challenge when observing the same thing happening among our species? Perhaps because I am also human; I have a vested concern in the situation. Fortunately, I can now laugh it all off. Humor and sanity go together like love and marriage.
The people take death lightly because they seek life’s flavor. Seeking life’s flavor can easily turn into a ‘take all you can’ approach to life. This always has undesirable repercussions. I find it much more satisfying to ‘give all I can’ to life. Indeed, ‘giving’ of yourself is the cornerstone of religious’ paradigms. (Buddha’s truths and eight-fold path point out a way of giving that works best for me.) A little motto of mine for years has been: ‘Rather than do what you like; like what you do’. The former is a seeking life’s flavor approach. The latter counterbalances that.
Only the man without use for life is worthy of a noble life may explain some of President Obama’s political difficulties. The more firmly tied to one’s agenda, the less one is able to be without use for life. Simply put, agenda = use for life. I believe Obama (like Bush before him) sincerely wished to change the political climate… to reach across the isle. Wishing isn’t enough. One must be particularly impartial to do that in fact! Obama and Bush were not impartial enough (mature) when they were elected. Perhaps if they had been 20-30 years older they would have been impartial enough to pull it off. Life is a learning experience, and with that experience comes increasing wisdom. Chapter 16 speaks to this:
Devote effort to emptiness, sincerely watch stillness.
Everything ‘out there’ rises up together, and I watch again.
Everything ‘out there’, one and all, return again to their root cause.
Returning to the root cause is called stillness, this means answering to one’s destiny;
Answering to one’s destiny is called the constant, knowing the constant is called honest.
Not knowing the constant, rash actions lead to ominous results.
Knowing the constant allows, allowing therefore impartial,
Impartial therefore whole, whole therefore natural,
Natural therefore the way.
The way therefore long enduring, nearly rising beyond oneself.
Chapter of the Week
The closest parallel to taxes I see in nature is the parasite. Parasites that give as much as they take are symbiotic relationships beneficial to both organisms. Nitrogen-fixing bacteria are an example. The larger an ‘organism’ of the governed and governing, the more difficult it is to maintain such a symbiotic balance. Too many self-interested parties take more than they give, and like leaches suck away the juices for their own benefit – not for the greater good of the ‘organism’. At heart, the pragmatic conservative realizes this difficulty, while the liberal puts their eggs in the basket of ‘if only’ idealism (1).
Too fond of action reminds me of trying to remove a bug from my tea cup. The more I stir up the water (fondest of action) the more chaotic the situation, the more difficult it is to fetch the bug. The most efficient way to deal with a problem is to be let the conditions settle down enough to perceive the mysterious sameness, and then take action with minimal expectations (2).
I would include the word personal when talking about how people take death lightly. They treat their own death lightly for they are preoccupied with seeking life’s flavor, the promises of what life has to offer going forward. The problem: we really only have this moment; the next is only a promise. And even when fate fulfills the promise we aren’t fully present to appreciate it because we’re still off seeking life’s flavor tomorrow.
Only the man without use for life means having no use for the ‘objective’ aspect of life. In other words, use for life comes down to the flavor one is seeking to get out of life. Here the eye is always looking out for the promise of some ideal future reward. This is at odds with making the most of one’s moment. Like the old saying goes, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
(1) I’m not referring to particular political parties here. A pragmatic conservative in the Taoist sense would be more ruthless. As D.C. Lau puts it, It is just because one has no use for life that one is wiser than the man who values life. Political parties, left or right, push their brand of ‘if only’ ideals in a tug-of-war that wages on and on. Another way to explain what I mean by conservative is by correlations:
Liberal ≈ complex, full, need, struggle, evolves, definite, anxious, modern
——- ———– —— ————- —–——- ———– —— ————- —–——- ———– —— —
Conservative ≈ simple, empty, content, surrender, revolves, ambiguous, patient, ancient
(2) D.C. Lau translated these lines as, It is because those in authority are too fond of action, That the people are difficult to govern. While true, that seems to go beyond what the Chinese says. Two characters, have+do ( 有为) translates as youwei which means promising or young and promising. Thus for me, these lines really speak more to people’s expectations, the promise of the future. Our expectations, and the desire that drives them, are our greatest liability when it comes to following the way.