Monday, November 27, 2006

Lao Tzu-- on drugs?

From the Tao Te Ching, Chapter 60:

Ruling the country is like cooking a small fish.
Approach the universe with Tao,
And evil will have no power.
Not that evil is not powerful,
But its power will not be used to harm others.
Not only will it do no harm to others,
But the sage himself will also be protected.
They do not hurt each other,
And the Virtue in each one refreshes both.

Got all that? Now what does it MEAN? I'm still stuck on the "fish" part.

The above is a rather poetic rendition of the Chinese by Gia-fu Feng and Jane English. Here's a more helpful translation by Robert Hendricks:

Ruling a large state is like cooking small fish.

When you use the Way to govern the world, evil spirits won't have godlike power.
Actually, it's not that evil spirits won't have godlike power,
It's that their power will not harm men.
But it's not just that their power won't harm men,
The Sage, also, will not harm them.
Since these two do not harm others,
Therefore their virtues intermingle and return to them.

The above is more understandable, but lacks flair. In fact, it seems to be an uneven mix of registers-- philosophically tinged turns of phrase thrown together with relaxed contractions.

Note that the two translations, when compared to each other, overlap but also clash. I'll have more to say on this later.


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