Of old, these came to be in the possession of the One:
Heaven in virute of the One is limpid;
Earth in virtue of the One is settled;
Gods in virtue of the One have their potencies;
The valley in virtue of the One is full;
The myriad creatures in virtue of the One are alive;
Lords and princes in virtue of the One become leaders in the empire.
It is the One that makes these what they are.
Without what makes it limpid heaven might split;
Without what makes it settled earth might sink;
Without what gives them their potencies gods might spend themselves;
Without what makes it full the valley might run dry;
Without what keeps them alive the myriad creatures might perish;
Without what makes them leaders lords and princes might fall.
Life is so full. There seems an endless variety of things… myriad creatures galore. All this easily confuses me and from confusion follows chaos. It is the One that makes these what they are, helps simplify my view. Returning to such a simple fundamental viewpoint allows me to devalue the importance of the daily bits and pieces that flow by. Only in the constancy of the One can I find peace. This is known as following the constant [see ch. 52].
Hence the superior must have the inferior as root; the high must have the low as
Thus lords and princes refer to themselves as ‘solitary’, ‘desolate’, and
‘hapless’. This is taking the inferior as root, is it not?
Hence the highest renown is without renown,
Not wishing to be one among many like jade
Nor to be aloof like stone.
The notion that the highest renown is without renown carries with it a deep irony. It has always bothered me that much of what deserves the highest renown goes un-acknowledged. Of course references are made, like ‘behind ever good man is good woman’, or ‘it’s not how you play the game…’. This Verse settles the issue for me. Once you elevate the low and inferior, it ceases to be root. You just can’t have it both ways.
The root is the One. I’ve always felt that giving a name to the root, like ‘God’, somehow loses the spirit of One. It pushes true mystery into the known superior realm. This no longer bothers me so much; I realize and accept humanity’s strong social instinct, for which words like ‘God’ serve a vital purpose. Religions are really political institutions, and the spirituality they purport to represent really exist silently at the root of each of us.
The highest renown is without renown may explain my life long inability to ‘buy into’ claims of renown. I see now, though, that bestowing praise and renown serves a vital hierarchical function for society, but as I’ve always been an outsider, it just doesn’t work well on me.