Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Chapter 72
Helpful Fear

When we don’t fear the fearful,
Confusion and great suffering arise.
Therefore fear a constricted life,
Fear wasting your time with a meaningless career.
If we don’t accept superficial values,
We won’t act in superficial ways.

And so the wise know themselves
But don’t show themselves,
Take care of and appreciate
But don’t puff up and exaggerate.
They let go of that
And choose this.

Commentary

“All paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind.”

Aristotle Ἀριστοτέλης
382 – 322 BCE

Themes: Livelihood

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“When happiness is present, we have everything; but when it is absent, we do everything to possess it.”

Epicurus ɛpɪˈkjɔːrəs
341 – 270 BCE
from On Nature

Themes: Happiness

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“Place a monkey in a cage, and it is the same as a pig, not beause it isn’t clever and quick, but because it has no place to freely exercise its capabilities.”

Liú Ān 劉安 via Thomas Cleary
(Huainanzi)
c. 179–122 BCE
from Huainanzi

Themes: Nationalism

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“Long I lived checked by the bars of a cage but now I have turned again to Nature and Freedom.”

Tao Yuanming
365 – 427 CE

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“Abandon hope and fear. Let go of trying to accomplish something or exhibiting anything.”

Saraha
8th century CE

Themes: Hope Fear

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“day in working for food and clothes
year out worrying about rent and taxes
thousands fight for a coin
the crowd yells ‘run for your life’”

Han Shan
(Cold Mountain)
c. 730-850 CE

Themes: Livelihood

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“When ordinary officials and the common people have no fear, punishment occurs. When ministers and high officials have no fear, banishment occurs. When princes and kings have no fear, warfare occurs.”

Wang Zhen
809 – 859 CE
from Daodejing Lunbing Yaoyishu, The Tao of War

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“The thing I fear most is fear . . . it exceeds all other disorders in intensity.”

Montaigne
1533 – 1592 CE

Themes: Fear

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“Hope has a good memory, gratitude a bad one.”

Balthasar Gracian via Joseph Jacobs
1601 – 1658 CE
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Hope Memory

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“How can a bird that is born for joy sit in a cage and sing?”

William Blake
1757 – 1827 CE

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“And close your eyes with holy dread
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge
1772 – 1834 CE
from Kubla Khan

Themes: Sacred World

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“Fish don't drown in water, snow lions don't freeze in snow... so forget your worries and future plans.”

Shabkar Tsokdruk Rangdrol ཞབས་དཀར་ཚོགས་དྲུག་རང་གྲོལ། via Shan Dao
1781 – 1851 CE
from Journey to Enlightenment

Themes: Forget

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“Every miserable fool who has nothing at all of which he can be proud, adopts as a last resource pride in the nation to which he belongs; he is ready and happy to defend all its faults and follies tooth and nail, thus reimbursing himself for his own inferiority.”

Arthur Schopenhauer
1788 – 1860 CE
from Parerga and Paralipomena, "Appendices" and "Omissions"

Themes: Nationalism

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“A love of nature keeps no factories busy.”

Henry David Thoreau
1817 – 1862 CE
Father of environmentalism and America's first yogi
from Walden or Life in the Woods

Themes: Livelihood

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“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation… the laboring man has not leisure for a true integrity… he has no time to be anything but a machine.”

Henry David Thoreau
1817 – 1862 CE
Father of environmentalism and America's first yogi
from Walden or Life in the Woods

Themes: Integrity

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“It is a bad thing to perform menial duties even for the sake of freedom.”

Karl Marx
1818 – 1883 CE

Themes: Freedom

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“How happy is the little stone
That rambles in the road alone,
And doesn't care about careers,
And exigencies never fears.”

Emily Dickinson
1830 – 1886 CE

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“To create happiness for oneself and others is the whole philosophy of religion.”

Inayat Khan
1882 – 1927 CE

Themes: Philosophy

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“I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.”

Nikos Kazantzakis via tombstone
1883 – 1957 CE

Themes: Hope Fear Freedom

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“And if you can't work with love, but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of the people who work with joy.”

Kahlil Gibran
1883 – 1931 CE

Themes: Livelihood

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“The trouble with most people is that they think with their hopes or fears or wishes rather than with their minds.”

Will (and Ariel) Durant
1885 – 1981 CE

Themes: Hope Fear

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“Nature smiles at the union of freedom and equality in our utopias. For freedom and equality are sworn and everlasting enemies, and when one prevails the other dies.”

Will (and Ariel) Durant
1885 – 1981 CE

Themes: Freedom Equality

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“Distracted from distraction by distraction.”

T.S. Eliot
1888 – 1965 CE

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“We all want the things which the factory produces and none of us is sensitive enough to care how much in human values the efficiency of the modern factory costs.”

Reinhold Niebuhr
1892 – 1971 CE

Themes: Technology

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“Our civilization being what it is, you've got to spend eight hours out of every twenty-four as a mixture between an imbecile and a sewing machine… It's humiliating and disgusting. But there you are. You've got to do it… Do the job then, idiotically and mechanically; and spend your leisure hours in being a real complete man or woman.”

Aldous Huxley
1894 – 1963 CE

Themes: Livelihood

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“We should do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest.”

Buckminster Fuller
1895 – 1983 CE

Themes: Technology

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“We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian Darwinian theory he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors.”

Buckminster Fuller
1895 – 1983 CE

Themes: Livelihood

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“We should do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest.”

Buckminster Fuller
1895 – 1983 CE

Themes: Livelihood

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“Just as modern mass production requires the standardization of commodities, so the social process requires standardization of man, and this standardization is called equality.”

Eric Fromm
1900 – 1980 CE

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“Life's more important than a living. So many people who make a living are making death, not life. Don't ever join them. They're the gravediggers of our civilization - The safe men. The compromisers. The moneymakers.”

James Hilton
1900 – 1954 CE
from Lost Horizon

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“I didn’t want a steady job in an office or factory. I thought myself too good for that not because I was stuck up but simply because any human being is too good for that kind of no-life, even white people.”

John Fire Lame Deer via Matthieu Ricard
1903 – 1976 CE
from Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions

Themes: Livelihood

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“The secret of Soto Zen is just three words: not always so… If you understand thing in this way, without being caught by words or rules, without too much of a preconceived idea, then you can actually do something.”

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi
1904 – 1971 CE

Themes: Moral Freedom

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“That soul-destroying, meaningless, mechanical, monotonous, moronic work is an insult to human nature which must necessarily and inevitably produce either escapism or aggression, and that no amount of ‘bread and circuses’ can compensate for the damage done – these are facts which are neither denied nor acknowledged but are met with an unbreakable conspiracy of silence – because to deny them would be too obviously absurd and to acknowledge them would condemn the central preoccupation of modern society as a crime against humanity.”

E. F. Schumacher
1911 – 1977 CE

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“We may say, therefore, that modern has deprived man of the kind of work that he enjoys most, creative, useful work with hands and brains, and given him plenty of work of a fragmented kind, most of which he does not enjoy at all…we might do well to take stock and reconsider our goals.”

E. F. Schumacher
1911 – 1977 CE
from Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered

Themes: Creativity

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“When a man finally realizes that he has taken a path without heart, that the path is ready to kill him; at that point, very few men can stop to deliberate, and leave that path.”

Carlos Castaneda
1925 – 1998 CE
from Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge

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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.”

Ursula Le Guin
1929 – 2018 CE

Themes: Fear Control

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“Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley's vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.”

Neil Postman
1931 – 2003 CE
from Amusing Ourselves to Death

Themes: Technology

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“It is easy for me to imagine that the next great division of the world will be between people who wish to live as creatures and people who wish to live as machines.”

Wendell Berry
1934 CE –

Themes: Technology

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“We can say without exaggeration that the present national ambition of the United States is unemployment. People live for quitting time, for weekends, for vacations, and for retirement; moreover, this ambition seems to be classless, as true in the executive suites as on the assembly lines. One works not because the work is necessary, valuable, useful to a desirable end, or because one loves to do it, but only to be able to quit - a condition that a saner time would regard as infernal, a condemnation.”

Wendell Berry
1934 CE –

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“Most people work just hard enough not to get fired and get paid just enough money not to quit.”

George Carlin
1937 – 2008 CE
One of the most influential social commentators of his time

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“Because they do not bring about notions as to what to reject and what to accept, they are also free from hope and fear, and they are not subject to cultivating and exerting.”

Chögyam Trungpa via Judith Lief, editor
1939 – 1987 CE
from Tantric Path of Indestructible Wakefulness

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“As soon as your born they make you feel small, by giving you no time instead of it all… A working class hero is something to be.”

John Lennon
1940 – 1980 CE

Themes: Obstacles

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“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”

John Lennon
1940 – 1980 CE

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“For them that must obey authority
That they do not respect in any degree
Who despise their jobs, their destinies
Speak jealously of them that are free
Do what they do just to be
Nothing more than something
They invest in.”

Bob Dylan
1941 CE –

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“But I mean no harm, nor put fault on anyone that lives in a vault. But it's alright, Ma, if I can't please him.”

Bob Dylan
1941 CE –
from Bringing it all Back Home

Themes: Conformity

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“We live behind bars of responsibility and conformity.”

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche རྫོང་གསར་ འཇམ་དབྱངས་ མཁྱེན་བརྩེ་ རིན་པོ་ཆེ།
(Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche)
1961 CE –
"Activity" incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo
from What Makes You Not a Buddhist

Themes: Conformity

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  1. Shan Dao
    Along with this translation “Therefore fear a constricted life, fear wasting your time with a meaningless career,” we like Le Guin’s “We ought not to live in narrow houses, we ought not to do stupid work.”