Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Tao Te Ching
Chapter 76
The Soft and Flexible

When first born, we’re small and weak;
The living are soft and flexible.
When we die, we become hard and stiff;
The dead are rigid, unmoving.
The greenery - grasses, plants and trees
Growing are tender and supple,
Dead are dry and brittle.
And so the strong and hard
Go along with dying;
The open to change and flexible with living.

When an army becomes inflexible,
It suffers defeat.
A tree that won’t bend
Easily breaks in storms.
The hard and strong will fail,
The open-hearted prevail.


“The green reed which bends in the wind is stronger than the mighty oak which breaks in a storm.”

Confucius 孔丘 551 – 479 BCE
(Kongzi, Kǒng Zǐ)
History's most influential "failure"

Themes: Openness

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“the most important part of a task is the beginning, for that is the time when character is formed, when impressions readily taken.”

Plato Πλάτων 428 – 348 BCE
from Republic Πολιτεία

Themes: Strategy

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“Can you stop looking to others and focus on your innermost self? Can you return to the beginning of the world and be like a newborn baby?”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE

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“The path of perennial victory is weakness. The path of perennial defeat is strength. These two are easy to recognize, but people remain oblivious to them.”

Lie Yukou 列圄寇/列禦寇/列子 1
(Liè Yǔkòu, Liezi)
from Liezi "True Classic of Simplicity and Perfect Emptiness”

Themes: Victory

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“It isn’t hard for an army to achieve victory. But it is hard to hold on to victory. There is no great army that has not brought on its own defeat through its victories.”

Wang Zhen 809 – 859 CE via Ralph D. Sawyer
from Daodejing Lunbing Yaoyishu, The Tao of War

Themes: Victory

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“I will be waiting for your silence to break, your soul to shake, and your love to wake!”

Rumi مولانا جلال‌الدین محمد بلخی 1207 – 1283 CE
(Rumi Mawlānā Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Balkhī)
from Masnavi مثنوي معنوي‎‎) "Rhyming Couplets of Profound Spiritual Meaning”

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“Seeing that the living are soft and the dead are hard, we can infer that those whose virtue is hard and those whose actions are forceful die before their time, while those who are soft and weak are able to preserver their lives.”

Wu Cheng 吴澄 1249 – 1333 CE via Red Pine
"Mr. Grass Hut"
from Tao-te-chen-ching-chu

Themes: Fanaticism

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“The more sand that escapes from our life’s hourglass, the more clearly we can see through it”

Machiavelli 1469 – 1527 CE via Shan Dao
(Niccolò Machiavelli)
from The Prince

Themes: Old Age

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“I will never be an old man. To me old age is always 15 years older than I am.”

Francis Bacon 1561 – 1626 CE

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“It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803 – 1882 CE
Champion of individualism

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“We turn not older with years but newer every day.”

Emily Dickinson 1830 – 1886 CE

Themes: Old Age

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“There is rarely a degeneration, a truncation, or even a vice or any physical or moral loss without an advantage somewhere else.”

Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 – 1900 CE
from Human All Too Human - A Book for Free Spirits

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“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.”

Albert Einstein 1879 – 1955 CE

Themes: Change

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“your ideas mature gradually—let them grow, let them shape themselves, without undue haste. Don’t try to force them on… accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.”

Teilhard de Chardin 1881 – 1955 CE via Bernard Wall
from Phenomenon of Man

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“These are my two drops of rain
Waiting on the window-pane…
All the best and all the worst
Comes from which of them is first…
John is there, and John has won!
Look! I told you! Here's the sun!”

A.A. Milne 1882 – 1956 CE
(Alan Alexander Milne)
from Waiting At The Window

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“The appearance of things changes according to the emotions; and thus we see magic and beauty in them, while the magic and beauty are really in ourselves.”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE

Themes: Magic

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“The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE

Themes: Old Age Longevity

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“Children understand… All grown-ups were once children but only few of them remember it… I have lived a great deal among grown-ups. I have seen them intimately, close at hand. And that hasn’t much improved my opinion of them… Only the children know what they are looking for.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry 1900 – 1944 CE

Themes: Simplicity Forget

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“We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

Anais Nin 1903 – 1977 CE

Themes: Reality

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

Ursula Le Guin 1929 – 2018 CE

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“You go back. You search for what made you happy when you were smaller. We are all grown up children, really... So one should go back and search for what was loved and found to be real.”

Audrey Hepburn 1929 – 1993 CE

Themes: Happiness

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“Odd as I am sure it will appear to some, I can think of no better form of personal involvement in the cure of the environment than that of gardening. A person who is growing a garden, if he is growing it organically, is improving a piece of the world.”

Wendell Berry 1934 CE –

Themes: Gardening

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“When we see things as they are, they make sense to us: the way leaves move when they are blown by the wind, the way rocks get wet when there are snowflakes sitting on them. We see how things display their harmony and their chaos at the same time. So we are never limited by beauty alone, but we appreciate all sides of reality properly.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior

Themes: Beauty

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“The first will be last and the last will be first.”

Bob Dylan 1941 CE –

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“How different this world would be if our leaders spent as much time in their gardens as they do in their war rooms.”

Red Pine 1943 CE –
( Bill Porter)
Exceptional translator, cultural diplomat

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