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Thread: Strange Interests!

  1. #1
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    Strange Interests!

    Well, this is really drawing a long bow! Anyway here goes:

    I have been interested in the Tao Te Ching for years and I read a bit of it on most days. The author (maybe!) is Lao Tzu and it's from the 4th century BCE (maybe!) There is one chapter, chapter 65, that has been a puzzle to me (and others) because it claims there is a link between good government and mysticism. A big leap for me anyway.

    So in an effort understand, I have rendered my own version. Please understand I don't know a word of Chinese (let alone ancient Chinese which the Tao Te Ching is) but I have battled with several translations and particularly one by Paul Carus (1898) is a character by character Chinese-English transliteration (I told you this is strange!)

    I would like to know what people think of the ideas in this rendition. And maybe I am the only person who is the least bit interested in this!

    Brett



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  2. #2
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    I am and have been intrigued by this body of ideas. I once had what might be considered a "Lite" copy of the oracle form in the "i ching".
    I have not given the larger translations as full a study as I intend. I found it to be a remarkable buffet of wisdom and have found similarities in the runes of the Elder Futhark from Nordic culture.

    I haven't finished the article yet but here is one of interest on the subject of the Tao Te Ching.

    http://www.stars-n-dice.com/iching.html

    I'm pleased you've brought this up. I will be interested to see what discussions may arise in this thread. Not so strange as you may believe.
    Be well,

    "Teach, Learn, Thrive"~DM


  3. #3
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    Brett, it's an open text, the whole thing is a puzzle, and you have found a way through it ... The main thing is to continue to meditate on its meaning and relevance, and to refine, refine, refine ...


    Since this is a forum for visual arts mainly, I thought you might want to see your passage in traditional Chinese characters, this will give you a sense of the economy of style, and of the visual groupings, bearing in mind that in classical Chinese there was no such thing as punctuation ...


    六十五章
    「古之善為道者,非以明民,將以愚之。民之難治,以其智多,故以智治國,國之賊!不以智治國,國之福。知此 兩者,亦稽式;常知稽式,是謂玄德。玄德深矣遠矣!與物反矣,然後乃至大順。」



    ps: you don't list the famous -- and somewhat controversial -- translation by Stephen Mitchell (1995?) ..
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  4. #4
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    I find myself intrigued right in the first paragraph where it says that the old ones who walked the way encouraged simple-heartedness rather than enlightenment. Echoed later by the assertion that too much cleverness is a curse.

    Shades of this thinking show up in the Christian Bible in the book of Matthew where the Christ figure talks about children in chapter 18 verse 3 "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."
    and again in chapter 19 verse 14
    "Leave the children alone, and don't try to keep them from coming to Me, because the kingdom of heaven is made up of people like this."

    Here is a quote from Renowned Russian Orthodox priest Alexander Schmemann in answer to the question of the meaning of Christ's words about being like children.


    "I believe that if we had to define this in one word that word would be "wholeness." A child does not yet know the fragmentation of life into past, present, and future, the sad experience of vanishing and irretrievable time. He is completely in the present; he is totally in the fullness of everything that is now, be it joy, be it grief. He is completely in joy, which is why people speak about "childlike" laughter and about a "childlike" smile; he can be completely in grief and sadness, and this is why we speak about the tears of a child, and thus, why a child so easily and unreservedly cries and laughs."

    I feel like the "cleverness" spoken of as a curse may well be the kind of cleverness of adulthood. The tendency to amass knowledge "about" things without actually having a communion with those things in a real and intimate way.

    This might lead me to consider that not encouraging enlightenment but simple heartedness, is a means of showing people the door rather than the destination.
    Be well,

    "Teach, Learn, Thrive"~DM


  5. #5
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    Hi Fashmir & Pete

    Interesting website Fashmir. I've only had a chance to browse very quickly, but I look more slowly later.

    Oh those beautiful characters Pete. I think must have been a Chinese calligrapher in a previous life! Do you know if there is a beautiful calligraphic version of the Tao (or part of it) on the Net that I could see?

    No, I never did get on with Stephen Mitchell's version. Didn't appeal at all. But I do like the Feng/English version. I think their translation of Chapter One is wonderful.

    I'm glad there are some others looking this way.Cool!

    Brett
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  6. #6
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    Brett,

    A quick search revealed that the best sites are in Chinese, so I'll have to choose one that you will find visually interesting, and I'll translate where necessary ... I mentioned Mitchell because he had the courage (like you) to translate the Dao De Jing without having any Chinese at all ...

    Fashmir,

    Your choice of Matthew is superb, and I want to say more when I have time, but I did take a quick look at my Chinese Bible, and in Matthew 18.3, there are at least two key words that made me think of the Dao De Jing (the first is the character for "pattern/model" and the second is the character for "kingdom") ... And also, because Brett's translation has "enlightenment" (and not, say, "education"), it is worth mentioning that "enlightenment" has a very different meaning in the West, where, since Kant, we have thought of "enlightenment" as liberation from childhood, that is, a growing up of sorts into rational and scientific reasoning, and so the very opposite of what on the surface we are to understand in the Dao De Jing passage ...
    Last edited by chinapete; 02-04-2013 at 04:05 PM.
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  7. #7
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    Isn't that an interesting interaction between the Tao and Matthew.

    The character for "pattern/model" is interesting because according to Carus the/an original meaning was "a particularly graceful tree" with an especial note to the one that was planted on Confucius' grave. Lao Tzu had a wonderful and sly humour (I think so anyway) and as he didn't admire Confucius in fact (I understand from Holmes Welch's book "Taoism") he thought Confucius was the cause of much of China's problems at the time of the warring states, to have used this character might have amused him a good deal :-)

    So I'm trying to figure out what you are saying about enlightenment vs education. The character is 'ming'? Yes? Carus says that means "enlightenment." So am I wildly astray here?

    If you have the time Pete, to find a site with calligraphy I would really like that.

    This is very interesting!

    Brett

    PS Speaking of children, every human being should see this video:

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=132367083592139
    Last edited by hypotaxis; 02-04-2013 at 05:17 PM.
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  8. #8
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    This discussion is really drawing me in. I look forward to further discourse on the characters for pattern and kingdom. As an aside I must confess no exposure to Kant until now- at least not in a direct sense. Naturally I will be investigating this deficit in my education. I will say this, my concept of enlightenment from my post adolescent years to now has been of a journey toward understanding and peace of heart and mind, rather than a release from childhood. The nature of the journey being inward toward stillness rather than a climb to a distant place outside of myself. Always with a feeling of its essence whispering at the periphery of conscious thought. Like not looking directly at a distant star to see it but looking 'near' the star for it to reveal itself. The journey being the internal experience while the outer experience can be more like the"musical thing" spoken of by Alan Watts, that we dance to. Ah well. Time for me to go and become still, for in the morning there is more dancing.
    Be well,

    "Teach, Learn, Thrive"~DM


  9. #9
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    Fashmir, I've found Kant is hell on wheels to read as a primary source and I can't read German well.

    If you want a secondary source I can highly recommend "The Passion of the Western Mind" by Richard Tarnas. Many academics loathe it, which is probably in its favour! (Pacem, Pete!)

    I agree with your assessment of 'enlightenment.' It's a transformation of consciousness, a radical acceptance of self and life as it is, learning to stand on"nowhere" and with the mystery "whispering at the edge of consciousness." Nicely put :-)

    Brett
    Last edited by hypotaxis; 02-04-2013 at 07:21 PM.
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  10. #10
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    You know, I'm usually the only guy in the room who thinks of Kant whenever the word "enlightenment" is mentioned ...

    Brett, I'm sure "enlightenment" is a good translation, I was trying to support Fashmir's positive interpretation of the people as "childlike," and in that sense, "enlightenment" as Kant gave it to us could suggest an opposite meaning, and so I was thinking maybe "education" would be a little more neutral term (this is how Mitchell translates it) ... But your translation is good ... The word "ming" 明 is a picture of the sun and moon appearing together in the sky, and when that happens, the situation must be a little brighter (so the basic meaning is "understand")...

    The attached image is by a calligraphist who calls himself "Fei Mo" (this means "Waste of Ink" in Chinese) ... I chose Fei Mo because his work shows how the Dao De Jing continues to live on in the hearts and minds of everyday people ...

    The text is from the Dao De Jing, section 40:

    Turning back is how the way moves;
    Weakness is the means the way employs.


    Here is a link to the image (it is the ninth image down; not all of the calligraphy on the page relates to the Dao De Jing):
    Fei Mo calligraphy

    By the way, the above link is to the blog of person who admires Fei Mo's calligraphy, and there we are told that Fei Mo studied Hegel ... As you may know, Hegel's idea of the spirit of history moving as "thesis/antithesis" has a lot in common with the Dao De Jing, and the blogger takes the opportunity to comment that Laozi got there way before Hegel!
    Attached Images Attached Images  
    Last edited by chinapete; 02-05-2013 at 04:11 AM.
    xiěyž, n. freehand brushwork, spontaneous expression
    Artrage Gallery
    / Leaning Tree Ink Studio

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