Tao Te Ching: Verse 58

More and more often I am finding Dr. Dyer’s interpretations of the Tao Te Ching to be limiting. I get the feeling that sometimes he only comprehends a small section of the verse, and so he focuses his attention on explaining that over the three or four pages he uses to deconstruct each segment. Perhaps I’m growing arrogant, but sometimes I feel like I understand the Tao Te Ching more thoroughly than he does (though I haven’t read the 25 translations he has). I’m taking less and less from what he says, but still finding it interesting and educational, if a little misguided or irrelevant to me.


Verse 58 [original translation]

When the ruler knows his own heart,
the people are simple and pure.
When he meddles with their lives,
they become restless and disturbed.

Bad fortune is what good fortune leans on;
good fortune is what bad fortune hides in.
Who knows the ultimate end of this process?
Is there no norm of right?
Yet what is normal soon becomes abnormal;
peoples’ confusion is indeed long-standing.

Thus the master is content to serve as an example
and not to impose his will.
He is pointed but does not pierce;
he straightens but does not disrupt;
he illuminates but does not dazzle.


Verse 58 [my interpretation]

When a leader knows her heart,
those she leads are simple and content.
When she interferes with their lives,
they become restless and unhappy.

Thus a wise leader serves as an example without imposing her will.
She is sharp (in her understanding), yet gentle in her rule,
she straightens without disrupting,
and illuminates without dazzling,
teaching quietly in the background without need for recognition.

Bad fortune rests on good fortune;
good fortune conceals bad fortune hidden within.
In the end, who can say whether something is good or bad?
And after all, these are judgements we place on the world:
the wild bird does not consider itself unlucky when it cannot find a worm.
Life is cyclical by nature,
and there will always be a times of wealth, and a times of poverty.
So who can say what is the norm?
What is normal soon becomes abnormal;
How quickly people change their minds!


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