The Way never does anything,
and everything gets done.
If those in power could hold to the Way,
the ten thousand things
would look after themselves.
If even so they tried to act,
I’d quiet them with the nameless,
In the unnamed, in the unshapen,
is not wanting.
In not wanting is stillness.
In stillness all under heaven rests.
Le Guin’s commentary:
Here the themes of not doing and not wanting, the unnamed and the unshapen, recur together in one pure legato. It is wonderful how by negatives and privatives Lao Tzu gives a sense of serene, inexhaustible fullness of being.
Themes and images recur and weave together throughout the text. Entire sentences or evens tanzas repeat, or nearly repeat. It’s part of the generative force that is the Tao. As if the text is brimming full, releasing images and themes individually, and then these themes will later appear together, will twist and helix round one another.
Another poem about non-action, stillness, quietness. I’ve always been drawn to stillness in art and in life. Maybe because I’ve often found it so difficult to be still. My brain is loud and when I talk, I talk a lot and often loudly. Sometimes it’s difficult for me to just sit and be.
This annoys Chelsea often. I cook our dinner, then serve it to both of us, but as soon as I’m finished eating, I begin cleaning our dishes or the kitchen. She wants to just sit and relax, but I find it difficult to do that when I know something needs to be done in the indefinite future. It’s why I try to finish all chores right away in the morning.
Because once all the responsibilities are taken care of, then I can sit and relax and just be.
It’s something I’m working on.
There’s a lot to work on.
But I love this poem, too. It reminds me of so much of my favorite art. The stillness I find in film or paintings or even poetry. I think of Basho and how his haiku speak to me.
This poem also reiterates how following the Tao will take care of everything. When you follow the Tao, you’re falling into the rhythm of the world, and so the world seems to open up for you, seems to fall in your favor. This is, of course, a perceptual thing. Since it’s not the world reacting to you, but you reacting to the world and the Tao.
But that’s the goal. To follow the Tao. To be like water. To find stillness, tranquillity.