being different

How much difference between yes and no?
What difference between good and bad?

What the people fear
must be feared.
O desolation!
Not yet, not yet has it reached its limit!

Everybody’s cheerful,
cheerful as if at a party,
or climbing a tower in springtime.
And here I sit unmoved,
clueless, like a child,
a baby too young to smile.

Forlorn, forlorn.
Like a homeless person.
Most people have plenty.
I’m the one that’s poor,
a fool right through.

Ignorant, ignorant.
Most people are so bright.
I’m the one that’s dull.
Most people are so keen.
I don’t have the answers.
Oh, I am desolate, at sea,
adrift, without a harbor.

Everybody has something to do.
I’m the clumsy one, out of place.
I’m the different one,
for my food
is the milk of the mother.

Lao Tzu
Ursula K Le Guin’s version

Lao Tzu’s being ironic here. Or playful, anyrate. He’s comparing himself and Taoism negatively to everyone else. The smart people can easily distinguish between good and bad, yes and no. But the Taoist monk is too foolish. She’s incapable of knowing what is good, what is bad.

It’s an interesting poem, and one of the longest in the text. But Lao Tzu is mocking his own text, and even the manner of its writing. The ambiguity and paradoxical statements–you could call him a fool and many would likely agree.

It’s something I’ve heard often about the Tao Te Ching: it’s meaningless and says nothing.

And I think that’s a valid way to look at this. It may even be one Lao Tzu endorses.

But this is part of the Tao. The Tao asks humility of us, acceptance. If someone thinks you’re a fool, that’s okay. Let them think that. It shouldn’t matter, because life is not a test and humans are not your judge.

There is no test.

There are no judges.

I get this critique often, too, as a pacifist, and I may write more about violence and pacifism tomorrow, but most people will hate you for these kinds of beliefs. They’ll fight against your ideology because they find it unpleasant or foolish, and maybe it is. But it doesn’t make it incorrect.

And, like Lao Tzu says, those who know what is good and what is bad are the smart, happy ones.

We’re the dummies.

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