hardness

Living people
are soft and tender.
Corpses are hard and stiff.
The ten thousand things,
the living grass, the trees,
are soft, pliant.
Dead, they’re dry and brittle.

So hardness and stiffness
go with death;
tenderness, softness,
go with life.

And the hard sword falls,
the stiff tree’s felled.
The hard and great go under.
The soft and weak stay up.

Lao Tzu
Ursula K Le Guin’s version

Le Guin’s commentary:

In an age when hardness is supposed to be the essence of strength, and even the beauty of women is reduced nearly to bone, I welcome this reminder that tanks and tombstones are not very adequate role models, and that to be alive is to be vulnerable.

Like Le Guin, I appreciate how theĀ Tao Te Ching continually subverts the classic descriptions of strength and power. Throughout the text, Lao Tzu elevates weakness, vulnerability, softness, passivity, and peace. He denigrates aggression, violence, and any other exertions of force.

The Tao is power, but it does not force us. It does not dictate how we must behave.

It invites us to follow.