The way is the hearth and home
of the ten thousand things.
Good souls treasure it,
lost souls find shelter in it.
Fine words are for sale,
fine deeds go cheap;
even worthless people can get them.
So, at the coronation of the Son of Heaven
when the Three Ministers take office,
you might race out in a four-horse chariot
to offer a jade screen:
but wouldn’t it be better to sit still
and let the Way be your offering?
Why was the Way honored
in the old days?
Wasn’t it said:
Seek, you’ll find it.
Hide, it will shelter you.
So it was honored under heaven.
Le Guin’s commentary:
I think the line of thought throughout the poem has to do with true reward as opposed to dishonorable gain, true giving as opposed to fake goods.
There is no greater gift in all the world than showing someone the Way. It’s a simple gift, but it has deep currents. It’s something that has always existed, yet few find it without being shown.
The best you can offer someone is gentle kindness, simplicity, and stillness. A smile and an open hand.
There is nothing greater.