There is a thing confusedly formed,
Born before heaven and earth.
Silent and void
It stands alone and does not change,
Goes round and does not weary.
It is capable of being the mother of the world.
I know not its name
So I style it ‘the way’.
I give it the makeshift name of ‘the great’.
Being great, it is further described as receding,
Receding, it is described as far away,
Being far away, it is described as turning back.
I know not its name, so I style it ‘the way’ helps resolve a slight conflict that occurs by saying anything about this matter. After all the name that can be named is not the constant name.[see ch. 1]. When I don’t take any naming too seriously, I know I’m operating at the superficial level, which is all that speech allows, really. When I lose sense of that I begin regarding the words as reality, instead of a stylized reality.
It’s important to note how the way does not use a capital W. That would serve to make it something separate and exclusive. When writing I sometimes yearn to write The Way because the way is so important to me. But, doing that would be narrowing the way. In fact, when I think something is IMPORTANT, I proselytize it as the only WAY. I’m reminded of the idiom ‘all roads lead to Rome’—all ways lead to the way always.
Being far away, it is described as turning back also translates to being far away implies turning back. This ‘evolve—revolve’ process is the Taoist model for all creation. Receding revolves back to turning back to beginnings which evolve forth to receding…
It stands alone and does not change is where I find sanity. The more important I make changing my circumstances, the more insane life becomes. When I get pushed into this chaos, it helps to stop for a moment and attempt to return to the silent and void within myself. If I can do this, perspective returns and I’m then able to continue to go round and not (grow) weary.
It’s only ‘the great’ that’s able to turn back. When the end is reached, the beginning arrives (“the great” circle of reality). Mysterious virtue is profound and far-reaching, But when things turn back it turns back with them. [see ch. 65] Circular reality challenges my linear thinking; it tickles my mind with irony.
It stands alone and does not change, Goes round and does not weary reminds me of the folk saying: ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’. Life is peaceful when I think of change as a game in ‘virtual reality’. Change is relative and fleeting, so why invest much there? Better to hold fast to the void.[see ch. 5]. After all, It is on disaster that good fortune perches; It is beneath good fortune that disaster crouches. [see ch. 58]. I can’t win that game.
The way is great; heaven is great; earth is great; and the king is also
great. Within the realm there are four things that are great, and the king
counts as one.
I suppose this helps connect the king to the rest of creation. Otherwise the king becomes the be-all-end-all. Of course, aren’t we all kings of our own domain. A modern interpretation might equate ego with king. When it comes right down to it, I have my sense of self king, along with the content of my consciousness, i.e., heaven, earth, and the way. I think of heaven and earth including every thing in existence, and the way to the connection between it all.
King is also great speaks to the King within. It’s only ‘the great’ within me that can rise above it all and turn back. The genuine King has mysterious virtue and so when things turn back it turns back with them [see ch. 65]. This King doesn’t lead, but rather follows.
Man models himself on earth,
Earth on heaven,
Heaven on the way,
And the way on that which is naturally so.
Man models himself on earth, heaven, and that which is naturally so inspires me to look to the past, and to nature for guidance on what normal natural living would be. It seems the more civilized we get, the easier it is to get out of touch with the natural model. We CAN innovate while ignorant of the constant [see ch. 16];
These four things man, heaven, earth, the way agree with the verse above, except for man; king is used instead. This supports defining king in broad terms to include man. Of course, I think each thing in existence has its unique material integrity, until its’ demise. The essential role of king is to maintain the integrity of the domain.
The model principle outlined here helps me tie the apparent chaos of existence into a simple family of Yin and Yang correlations. There is one simple natural process. There are myriad extrinsic differences, just as no two snow fakes are alike; but reality lies in intrinsic similarities. Thus, my daily awake and sleep cycle models the same pattern as my life and death, which in turn model the birth and death of a star, which must model the birth and death of the universe. By giving up some of my sense of unique self I gain entrance into an eternal cosmic family.
Man models himself on earth and so forth is the basis of common sense. Common sense doesn’t come from wide learning, but from an ability to slow down and make the connections / correlations needed for a broad perspective. When I lose my place in the scheme of things, I become a fool, no matter how clever, well educated or well meaning I am.