Great perfection seems chipped,
Yet use will not wear it out;
Great fullness seems empty,
Yet use will not drain it;
Great straightness seems bent;
Great skill seems awkward;
Great eloquence seems tongue-tied.
Great perfection seems chipped is like the ‘perfection that can be named is not constant perfection’, to paraphrase Chapter 1. The perfection that I’m always struggling for is really a reflection of my own desires, ideals and fears.
Great eloquence seems tongue-tied is a big relief. I get tongue-tied when I try to speak in uncharted territory, either as with strangers or on concepts which I’m exploring for the first time, or re-thinking fresh. In such situations I can feel a bit embarrassed and klutsy, especially if I’m expecting perfection. When I keep this precept in mind, I’m able to be more natural.
I think Great eloquence seems tongue-tied because the greatness lies in the depth, which is murky and mysterious. How else could speech, that is trying to deal in reality, be. I guess that makes ‘smooth talking’ the result of much rehearsal and not as original as it might appear.
Great straightness seems bent and so on speak to the circular nature of reality, which the couplets portray well, i.e., ‘Straightness evolves forth into bent as it stands up, yet, bent revolves back to straightness as it lies down’.
Pushing for one extreme, one side, always brings me its opposite. When I’m still I can sense both the left and right of reality and remain more in the middle. Not rushing off to extremes requires me to GET A GRIP, bite the bullet, and accept that great fullness seems empty. I can only approach life this way if I live it one moment at a time, step by step, which allows me to remember how things are and not get carried away with how I want them to be.
Restlessness overcomes cold; stillness overcomes heat.
Restlessness overcomes cold explains desire. This instinct keeps me moving. Too much activity leads to exhaustion, where upon stillness overcomes heat. It’s best when I don’t have any ideals as to which is better, but just allow each phase to come and go naturally. It’s always tempting to push things before their time.
The important thing with restlessness overcomes cold; stillness overcomes heat, is to live without preconceptions of how life should be. With fewer ideals I’m able to respond with either restlessness or stillness as required by current conditions.
Every moment of life is like traveling down a ‘two forked road’. And each moment you can take either the restlessness or stillness path. At each moment the ‘choice’ will be either an instinctual reaction to stimuli or an action arising from a sense of the whole, i.e., like great straightness seems bent. Nature abhors a vacuum, I can either pay attention to the big picture or succumb to my instinctual reactions. Of course, I do both! When I keep the question alive, ‘what do I want for life?’, now, not tomorrow, I naturally take the road of reason. It’s easy. The great way is easy, yet people prefer by-paths. [see ch. 53]
Limpid and still,
One can be a leader in the empire.
I regard being a leader in the empire to refer more to how I conduct my life. This relates to personal integrity. When I have my feet firmly planted, I don’t follow my every desire. I can remain limpid and still.
The empire of my environment is always presenting me with stimulation, egging me on to react. When I’m tossed to and fro by instinctual responses, I’m NO leader in the empire.
Who can be at rest and yet, stirring, slowly come to life? He who holds fast to this way (and) desires not to be full [see ch. 15]. When I can remain still, I waste so much less energy; I only act when needed. Of course the life instinct wants me to rush around and fill up.