I finally finished all 81 verses after half a year of semi-regular study. How relieving! But of course, all things in the Tao are cyclical, and I am certain that I have forgotten much which I will one day remember. I hope to re-read it again soon, but for now, here are my thoughts on the final five verses. I’ve put Verse 80 last because I found it the most poignant; it is the dearest vision of my heart, and it reminds me fondly of gashuku.
One who follows the way shares his abundance with others.
What man has more than enough and gives it to the world?
A man of the Tao.
Such a man can keep on giving
because there is no end to his wealth.
He acts without expectation,
succeeds without taking credit,
and does not think he is more important than anything else.
Nothing in the world is softer or gentler than water.
But for wearing away the hard and unyielding,
nothing can surpass it.
The weak overcomes the strong.
The soft surpasses the hard.
All people inherently know this,
but none can master it.
The wise woman remains serene in the midst of sorrow;
no darkness can enter her heart.
Because she no longer strives to help people,
she becomes people’s greatest help.
After a bitter quarrel, some hurt remains.
What can be done about it?
Eventually, someone must risk responding to injury with kindness,
or else hostility can never turn into love.
Thus the wise always give without expecting reward.
It is best to be content with what you have.
One who knows the Way always seeks to give.
One who does not know the Way always seeks to get.
The giver receives the bounty of life.
The taker receives only emptiness.
True words are not beautiful;
beautiful words are not true.
Good men do not argue;
men who argue are not good.
Those who have virtue do not judge or search for faults;
those who judge or fault-find are not truly virtuous.
Wise people do not accumulate anything,
but share all they have with others;
the more they have, the more they give.
Heaven is good to all beings,
and does no evil to anyone.
A wise woman emulates this,
acting for the good of all
and opposing herself to none.
Imagine a small country with few people.
They have weapons but do not use them;
they enjoy working with their hands
and do not waste time inventing labour-saving machines.
They take death seriously and do not travel far.
Although they have boats and carriages,
no one uses them.
Since they dearly love their homes,
they are not interested in travelling far from them.
They are content with healthy food,
pleased with useful clothing,
satisfied in cosy homes,
and protective of their way of life.
Although they live within sight of their neighbours,
and crowing cocks and barking dogs can be heard across the way,
they leave each other in peace
while they grow old and die.