Tao Te Ching: Verse 2

Verse 2 [original]

Under heaven all can see beauty as beauty,
only because there is ugliness.
All can know good as good only because there is evil.

Being and nonbeing produce each other.
The difficult is born in the easy.
Long is defined by short, the high by the low.
Before and after go along with each other.

So the sage lives openly with apparent duality
and paradoxical unity.
The sage can act without effort
and teach without words.
Nurturing things without possessing them,
he works, but not for rewards;
he competes, but not for results. 

When the work is done, it is forgotten.
That is why it lasts forever. 

Verse 2 [my interpretation]

In the physical world, what is considered beautiful is done so in contrast with what is considered ugly.
Happiness is a measure of what sadness came before it.
Ideas of good/bad, tall/short, even white/black only exist in contrast with one another.
Their existence produces their opposite.

They are all subjective judgements that we, as human beings, put on the world.
A sunflower is neither inherently beautiful nor inherently ugly compared to the rose: it simply is.
Furthermore, these binomial opposites are cycles of the same thing;
feeling cold will always follow feeling hot which will always follow feeling cold.

The wise man lives in this paradoxical universe without attaching to it.
He does not judge, but accepts things as they truly are.
He does not condemn nor does he extol the otter for being an otter.
The glass is neither half full, nor half empty: it is half a glass.

He moves through this world because it is his nature to move through this world.
He embraces and embodies the Way, and all people can learn from him.
He does not struggle to be, or do;
he simply is, and does.
He does not work for reward or recognition;
he simply works because it is his nature to work.

And when the work is done,
It slips into the past.
It returns to the Tao
and the cycle continues eternally.

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