Tao Te Ching

Lao Tze

The best word to describe this book would be inscrutable.

It has beautiful, poetic lines in it, that one can't help but agree with ("To know and not think we know is the highest; not to know and yet think we know is a disease"), it has simple statements of fact that make one wonder why they are in it ("That which is brittle is easily broken") but the vast majority of it is inscrutable ("May not the space between the heaven and the earth be compared to the bellows?").

I read it a couple of times when I was younger, I enjoyed it a lot, but I'm not sure I understood it. When I was at uni I met some Taoists who were interested in my knowledge of the book and invited me around to their house. It turned out to be a temple, and they eventually gave me "Tao" in a ceremony at which I was given secret messages and words of power, which I can't remember now anyway. I ended up figuring out they were some sort of Taoist cult, which was a real shame because they made wonderful vegetarian communal dinners, but that's another story.

I reread most of it recently, and I must say I did enjoy it again, but alas I still don't think I understand it. With a more mature eye, I can see a lot more to dislike about the book than I did when I was younger. In a number of places it extolls the virtues of being stupid, it also has a word for the powerful about keeping people stupid "The difficulty in governing the people arises from their having too much knowledge" and then goes on to tell the powerful to if not be stupid, then act stupidly as well "He who governs a state by his wisdom is a scourge to it". Not sure if women aren't intended to govern states, or if they are allowed to use wisdom should they do so.

There's plenty more gems "Therefore the sage, in the exercise of his government, empties the minds, fills their bellies, weakens their will, and strengthens their bones".

It is an interesting book, it has some things in it that almost seem like otherwordly wisdom, and anyone interested in inscrutable oriental thought will enjoy it. It's only a short book, it has millions of followers around the world called Taoists, and its best-known symbol is the yin and yang. If you can understand it you will apparently have all sorts of spooky powers, and for the guys out there if "Erotic Ghost Story" is to be believed, it could also lead to some beautiful supernatural women.

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