Tao Te Ching, Verses 65 and 66: Simplicity and Humility

Forgot to share yesterday’s insightful verse, so a double-dose of Taoist wisdom today (haha, look at that, alliteration. Beautiful!)


Verse 65 [my interpretation]

Our predecessors were simple-hearted and lived as common people.
They did not draw the spotlight or rule the cunning,
thus the nation was fortunate.

When people think they know the answers,
they can learn no more.
When people know they are ignorant,
only then can they find the answers.

The simplest pattern is the clearest.
Content with a simple life,
you can show all people the way back to their true natures.

This verse made me think of the Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones, for those who haven’t read the books) series by George R. R. Martin. Ned Stark, open, honest, honourable (alliteration win!) was undoubtedly the most well-loved Lord in all of Westeros. What he loved most was his people, praying to the Old Gods and being home with his family. Consequently, the common folk (many of which he knew by name) were loyal to him and respected his law and judgement because they knew he ruled with justice and love for his people. On the other hand, Cersei, Tyrion and Tywin Lannister, Littlefinger and the other great schemers of the realm all lived in misery and paranoia, fearing rebellion and treachery almost every hour of the waking day. Comparatively, their commonfolk cared nothing for what happened to their leaders, so long as they had enough food and money (which they often did not, as the kingdom was constantly ravaged by war). If only there were more Ned Starks in the world.


Verse 66 [my interpretation]

Why is the sea king of all streams?
Because it lies below them.
It is virtuous/powerful because it embraces humility.

Thus if you wish to be above others,
you must practice being beneath them.
If you wish to be a leader,
first you must learn to follow.

Thus when such a person is a leader,
those under him do not feel oppressed.
When he stands his ground to confront others,
they do not feel offended.

The sage stays low so that, in a way,
the world is always bowing to him.
He remains a servant
so that the world never tires of making him its king.


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