Friday, January 20, 2006

Going Forward, Into the Past (2,600 Years and Nothing has Changed)

While Terry McKenna has been kind enough to keep the blog rolling over the past week with his excellent series of pieces on health care in this country, I have been completing a final version of my translation of the poems of Lao Tzu (who we have heard from in this space before).

If you would like to have a look at some of Lao Tzu's poems in this translation, please have a look here. And if you then decide you'd be willing to consider purchasing my book, use this link (and please accept my deepest thanks). I am also going to produce an audio version of this translation of the Tao Te Ching—for a sample of that, try this selection (mp3 format; 2.5 MB download; reproduced in print below).

In this era of accumulation, artifice, governmental deceit, arrogance, and rapacious, seemingly omnipresent violence, I think that Lao Tzu has a great deal to teach us—not merely about enduring the decadence of our age, but about transcending and transforming it.

Shut down your intellect, and answer:
Between yes and no, spoken from within,
How little a difference is there,
Compared to that between success and failure?

Why would I fear what others do?
Why must I give my inner consent
To the values of the collective?

Oh! How the desolation around me
Has reached its utmost sunken limit!
The lusty mob is buried in busyness,
As if gathered for a sacrificial feast
(Yet who or what is being sacrificed?)
But I alone—as if from an outpost of vigilance—
Am apart: blank and unmoved,
Like an infant who hasn’t yet learned to smile.
Isolated and withdrawn, I am like a homeless man.

Others are absorbed in getting and spending;
While I appear broken and bare of influence.

Others shine with the luminous glow
Of progress, brilliance, and daring;
But I am like a simpleton, vapid and raving.

The world around me teems with cleverness;
I alone retreat into dullness.

With what fathomless depth,
Like a sea-born whirlpool of sound and storm,
Do they ponder and debate—
Ceaseless, directionless, and adamant—
But I alone am obtuse, disturbed, thickheaded,
Like some coarse cloth, unrefinable
And therefore worthless.

Yes, I am different, as are my values:
For I drink from the breast of the Sublime Mother.

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