Lakes and rivers are lords of the hundred valleys.
Why? Because they’ll go lower.
So they’re the lords of the hundred valleys.
Just so, a wise soul,
wanting to be above other people,
talks to them from below
and to guide them
And so the wise soul
predominates without dominating,
and leads without misleading.
And people don’t get tired
of enjoying and praising
one who, not competing,
has in all the world
Taoism is about the dirt and the sand and the earth. It’s not a mode of thinking that brings you to the clouds and above, to the moon and stars. Lao Tzu wants you down in the dirt, getting your hands dirty. It’s the kind of teaching where a farmer or a fisher may be a better teacher than a scholar at the university.
In a lot of ways, it almost makes sense for Lao Tzu to disparage the scholars and intellectuals of his time. To him, true wisdom doesn’t come from books and scholarship. It comes from simplicity. From living and breathing in the world. From being a part of nature and understanding your insignificance in the face of so much beauty.
The Tao is not found in books. It’s not found in schools.
It’s found in the simple beauty of planting a seed. In listening to the river run.
And so a leader, or a wise soul, is one who can show you the world with new eyes and ears.