the sign of the mysterious

Being full of power
is like being a baby.
Scorpions don’t sting,
tigers don’t attack,
eagles don’t strike.
Soft bones, weak muscles,
but a firm grasp.
Ignorant of the intercourse
or man and woman,
yet the baby penis is erect.
True and perfect energy!
All day long screaming and crying,
but never getting hoarse.
True and perfect harmony!

You know harmony
is to know what’s eternal.
To know what’s eternal
is enlightenment.
Increase of life is full of portent:
the strong hearts exhausts the vital breath.
The full-grown is on the edge of age.
Not the Way.
What’s not the Way soon dies.

Lao Tzu
Ursula K Le Guin’s version

Le Guin’s commentary:

As a model for the Taoist, the baby is in many ways ideal: totally unaltruistic, not interested in politics, business, or the proprieties, weak, soft and able to scream placidly for hours without wearing itself out (its parents are another matter). The baby’s unawareness of poisonous insects and carnivorous beasts means that such dangers simply do not exist for it. (Again, its parents are a different case.)

As a metaphor of the Tao, the baby embodies the eternal beginning, the ever-springing source. “We come, trailing clouds of glory,” Wordsworth says; and Hopkins, “There lives the dearest freshness deep down things.” No Peter Pan-ish refusal to grow up is involved, no hunt for the fountain of youth. What is eternal is forever young, never grows old. But we are not eternal.

It is in this sense that I understand how the natural, inevitable cycle of youth, growth, mature vigor, age, and decay can be “not the Way.” The Way is more than the cycle of any individual life. We rise, flourish, fail. The Way never fails. We are waves. It is the sea.

I can say nothing better than that about this, or about the Tao.

And so I think I’ll leave it at that.

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