Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Ursula Le Guin

1929 – 2018 CE

At an early age, Le Guin saw her father making notes in an old book. In this way she discovered Lao Tzu who became a lifelong teacher and companion. Her father, a famous cultural anthropologist also exposed her to the native American shamanistic traditions. This led to a prolific and influential literary career with works translated into 31 languages and winning 21 Locus, 6 Nebula, 5 Hugo, a Newbery and World Fantasy, many “year's best” and other awards. Not just entertaining, these books challenged and positively shaped modern views on race, gender, society and the environment.

Eras

Sources

Lavinia

Matter of Seggri

The Lathe of Heaven

Unlisted Sources

A Book About the Way and the Power of the Way

Voices

Quotes by Ursula Le Guin (70 quotes)

“…the endlessness of all that is, and the limitation of mortal bodily life, are the same, and their sameness is the key to the door.”

Chapters: 14. Finding and Following the Formless Form

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“‘doing without doing’: uncompetitive, unworried, trustful accomplishment, power that is not force. An example or analogy might be a very good teacher, or the truest voice in a group of singers.”

Chapters: 17. True Leaders

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“We tend to expect great things from ‘seeing the world’ and ‘getting experience.’…Lao Tzu’s point: it’s the inner eye that really sees the world.”

from Lao Tzu - A Book about the Way and the Power of the Way

Chapters: 47. Effortless Success

Themes: Travel

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“Care for what seems unimportant… Having replaced instinct with language, society, and culture, we are the only species that depends on teaching and learning. We aren’t human without them… But are they the occupations of the rich and mighty?”

Chapters: 27. No Trace

Themes: Culture

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“doing not doing… not a statement susceptible to logical interpretation, or even to syntactical translation into English; but it’s a concept that transforms thought radically, that changes minds.”

Chapters: 3. Weak Wishes, Strong Bones

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“Even the best weapon is an unhappy tool.”

Chapters: 31. Victory Funeral

Themes: True Self

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“He never spoke with any bitterness at all, no matter how awful the things he said. Are there really people without resentment, without hate she wondered. People who never go cross-grained to the universe? Who recognize evil, and resist evil, and yet are utterly unaffected by it?”

from The Lathe of Heaven

Chapters: 49. No Set Mind

Themes: Hate Evil

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“he won’t admit it; he lies because he won’t look straight, he’s not interested in what’s true, in what is; he can’t see anything except his mind – his ideas of what ought to be.”

Chapters: 12. This Over That

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“How many hundreds of years ago was this book written? And yet still this chapter must be written in the present tense”

Chapters: 75. Greed

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“I consistently render the character te as ‘power.’ ‘Virtue’ (virtus, vertu) in its old sense of the inherent quality and strength of a thing or person is far closer to the mark, but that sense is pretty well lost. Applied obsessively to the virginity or monogamy of women, the word lost its own virtue.”

Chapters: 10. The Power of Goodness

Themes: Virtue

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“I read this poem as saying that if you can take life as it comes, it doesn’t come at you as your enemy.”

Chapters: 50. Claws and Swords

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“I take the liberty of reading this chapter as a description of what we, ordinary people, should fear… the ruler. It’s certainly what William Blake would have told the oligarchs of the Industrial Revolution, who still control our lives.”

Chapters: 72. Helpful Fear

Themes: Fear Control

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“I think the line of thought throughout the poem has to do with true reward as opposed to dishonorable gain, true giving as opposed to fake goods.”

Chapters: 62. Basic Goodness

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“Identify yourself with loss, failure, the obscure, the unpossessible, and you’ll be at home even there.”

Chapters: 23. Nothing and Not

Themes: Failure

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“if you treat your body as unimportant you risk insanity, or inanity.”

Chapters: 26. The Still Rule the Restless

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“In the first stanza, we see the followers of the Way… as remote and inaccessible but the second stanza brings them close and alive”

Chapters: 15. Inscrutability

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“It is wonderful how by negatives and privatives Lao Tzu gives a sense of serene, inexhaustible fullness of being.”

Chapters: 37. Nameless Simplicity

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“It was more than dignity. Integrity? Wholeness? Like a block of wood not carved. The infinite possibility, the unlimited and unqualified wholeness of being of the uncommitted, the nonacting, the uncarved: the being who, being nothing but himself, is everything.”

Chapters: 50. Claws and Swords

Themes: Integrity

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“Lao Tzu is not saying that immortality or even longevity is desirable. The religion called Taoism has spent much imagination on ways to prolong life interminably or gain immortality… but the Lao Tzu who wrote this had no truck with such notions.”

Chapters: 33. Know Yourself

Themes: Taoism Longevity

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“Lao Tzu is… explaining a profound and difficult truth here, one of those counter-intuitive truths that, when the mind can accept them, suddenly double the size of the universe.”

Chapters: 11. Appreciating Emptiness

Themes: Paradox

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“Lao Tzu sees rightful power as earned and wrongful power as usurped. He does not see power as virtue, but as the result of virtue. The democracies are founded on that view.”

Chapters: 13. Honor and Disgrace

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“Lao Tzu thinks the materialistic dualist, who tries to ignore the body and live in the head, and the religious dualist, who despises the body and lives for a reward in heaven, are both dangerous and in danger.”

Chapters: 39. Oneness

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“low and high, winning and losing, destruction and self-destruction, reverse themselves, each turning into its seeming opposite.”

Chapters: 42. Children of the Way

Themes: Victory One Taste

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“most of us wander on and off the Way and don’t know a sage from a sand pile.”

Chapters: 49. No Set Mind

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“Mysticism rises from and returns to the irreducible, unsayable reality of ‘this.’ ‘This’ is the Way. This is the way.”

Chapters: 21. Following Empty Heart

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“No anarchist can be a pessimist… natural stuff is better than anything that can be made out of it.”

Chapters: 36. The Small, Dark Light

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“passages such as this one… offer what so many people for so many centuries have found in this book: a pure apprehension of the mystery of which we are part.”

Chapters: 4. The Father of All Things

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“So much for capitalism.”

Chapters: 53. Shameless Thieves

Themes: Capitalism

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“tanks and tombstones are not very adequate role models… to be alive is to be vulnerable.”

Chapters: 76. The Soft and Flexible

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“Taoists gain their ends without the use of means. That is indeed a light that does not shine.”

Chapters: 58. Goals Without Means

Themes: Taoism

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“the mind wanders without certainties, desolate, silent, awkward. But in that milky, dim strangeness lies the way… the way embodies the eternal beginning, the ever-springing source.”

Chapters: 20. Unconventional Mind

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“The prize thrown away by the aggressor is compassion.”

Chapters: 69. No Enemy

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“The simplicity or singleness of the Way is that of water which always rejoins itself.”

Chapters: 8. Like Water

Themes: Simplicity Water

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“the valley where power is contained leads back – to the forever new endless, straightforward way.”

Chapters: 28. Turning Back

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“The Way itself is a follower. Though it is before everything, it follows what is.”

Chapters: 25. The Mother of All Things

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“The word I render as ‘opinion’ can be read as ‘knowing too soon’: the mind obeying orders, judging before the evidence is in closed to fruitful perception and learning… Buddhists and Taoists agree in having a very low opinion of opinion.”

from Lao Tzu - A Book about the Way and the Power of the Way

Chapters: 38. Fruit Over Flowers

Themes: Opinion

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“There are times when Lao Tzu sounds very like Henry David Thoreau, but Lao Tzu was kinder…Lao Tzu know that getting all entangled with the external keeps us from the eternal, but he also understands that sometimes people like to get dressed up.”

Chapters: 18. The Sick Society

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“This chapter is equally relevant to private relationships and to political treaties.”

Chapters: 79. No Demands

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“This is a mystical statement about government–and in our minds those two realms are worlds apart. I cannot make the leap between them. I can only ponder it.”

Chapters: 65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

Themes: Government

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“This last poem is self-reflexive, wrapping it all up tight in the first verse, then opening out again to praise the undestructive, uncompetitive generosity of the spirit that walks on the Way.”

Chapters: 81. Journey Without Goal

Themes: Competition

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“Thomas Jefferson would have liked the first stanza… wise souls neither indulge nor repress the troubled spirits that may haunt them.”

Chapters: 60. Less is More

Themes: Problems

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“To believe that our beliefs are permanent truths which encompass reality is a sad arrogance.”

Chapters: 2. The Wordless Teachings

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“To Lao Tzu, not to fear dying and not to fear killing are equally unnatural and antisocial. Who are we to forestall the judgment of heaven or nature, to usurp the role of ‘the executioner’?”

Chapters: 74. The Great Executioner

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“To lose the sense of sacredness of the world is a mortal loss. To injure our world by excesses of greed and ingenuity is to endanger our own sacredness.”

Chapters: 29. Not Doing

Themes: Greed

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“To those who will not admit morality without a deity to validate it… the firmness of Lao Tzu’s morality and the sweetness of his spiritual counsel must seem incomprehensible, or illegitimate, or very troubling indeed.”

from Lao Tzu - A Book about the Way and the Power of the Way

Chapters: 16. Returning to the Root, Meditation

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“We are the waves, the Tao is the sea.”

Chapters: 30. No War

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“We’re used, our lives shaped and controlled, by our machines, cars, planes, weaponry, bulldozers, computers. These Taoists don’t surrender their power to their creations.”

Chapters: 80. A Golden Age

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“wei wu wei – not a statement susceptible to logical interpretation, or even to syntactical translation into English; but it’s a concept that transforms thought radically, that changes minds.”

Chapters: 57. Wu Wei

Themes: Reason

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“What is eternal is forever young, never grows old…The Way never fails. We are waves. It is the sea.”

Chapters: 55. Forever Young

Themes: Longevity

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“What you know without knowing you know it is the right kind of knowledge. Any other kind… you’ll lose the way.”

Chapters: 71. Sick of Sickness

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“You can only be kind or cruel if you have, and cherish, a self… Altruism is the other side of egoism.”

Chapters: 5. Christmas Trees

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“You have to make order, you have to make distinctions, but you also have to know when to stop before you’ve lost the whole in the multiplicity of parts.”

Chapters: 32. Uncontrived Awareness

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“The end justifies the means. But what if there never is an end? All we have is means.”

from The Lathe of Heaven

Chapters: 81. Journey Without Goal

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“The infinite possibility, the unlimited and unqualified wholeness of being of the uncommitted, the nonacting, the uncarved: the being who, being nothing but himself, is everything.”

from The Lathe of Heaven

Chapters: 15. Inscrutability

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“To do any good at all, just believing you’re right and your motives are good isn’t enough. You have to… be in touch.”

from The Lathe of Heaven

Chapters: 67. Three Treasures

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“The prize thrown away by the aggressor is compassion.”

from Lao Tzu - A Book about the Way and the Power of the Way

Chapters: 69. No Enemy

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“We make a desert and call it progress.”

from Lavinia

Chapters: 80. A Golden Age

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“Where man goes, trees die; or, to paraphrase Tacitus, we make a desert and call it progress.”

from Lavinia

Chapters: 80. A Golden Age

Themes: Progress

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“From the divine right of kings through the deadly teachings of Hitler and Mao to the mumbojumbo of economists, government by theory has done endless ill.”

from Lao Tzu - A Book about the Way and the Power of the Way

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“Simple statements have complex implications and need thinking about.”

from Lao Tzu - A Book about the Way and the Power of the Way

Chapters: 27. No Trace

Themes: Contemplation

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“A great government wouldn't chop and hack at human nature, trying to make leaders out of sow's ears.”

from Lao Tzu - A Book about the Way and the Power of the Way

Chapters: 28. Turning Back

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“[Discussions about] gender bring us right up face-to-face with sex, as well as love… the functioning of society and the conditions of freedom.”

from Matter of Seggri

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“I don't care about honor. I want to be free.”

from Matter of Seggri

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“We collude with them and they with us in maintaining the great foundation of ignorance and lies on which our civilization rests.”

from Matter of Seggri

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“The untold story mothers the lie… the story has no beginning and no story has an end… the story is never true but the lie is indeed the child of silence.”

from Matter of Seggri

Themes: Lies History

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“If you cannot or will not imagine the results of your actions, there's no way you can act morally or responsibly,”

Themes: Imagination

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“An elusive and incomparable artist. The fact that what Dick is entertaining us about is reality and madness, time and death, sin and salvation - this has escaped most critics.”

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“Nothing about [the Tao Te Ching] is certain except that it's Chinese, very old, and speaks to people everywhere as if it had been written yesterday.”

from A Book About the Way and the Power of the Way

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“Lao Tzu is tough-minded. He is tender-minded. He is never under any circumstance, squashy-minded.”

from A Book About the Way and the Power of the Way

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“Having one king, one god, one belief, they can act single-mindedly.”

from Voices

Themes: Nationalism

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