Alone, Yet Content “Tao Te Ching” Verse 20 for Artists

by | Nov 20, 2014 | 0 comments

Verse 20*

Cease learning, no more worries
Respectful response and scornful response
How much is the difference?
Goodness and evil
How much do they differ?
What the people fear, I cannot be unafraid
So desolate! How limitless it is!
The people are excited
As if enjoying a great feast
As if climbing up to the terrace in spring
I alone am quiet and uninvolved
Like an infant not yet smiling
So weary, like having no place to return
The people all have surplus
While I alone seem lacking
I have the heart of a fool indeed – so ignorant!
Ordinary people are bright
I alone am muddled
Ordinary people are scrutinizing
I alone am obtuse
Such tranquility, like the ocean
Such high wind, as if without limits
The people all have goals
And I alone am stubborn and lowly
I alone am different from them
And value the nourishing mother


This verse I find to be very different from the previous ones. In the previous chapters the tone was more educational, like Lao Tzu was teaching/showing us the way.
This one is more like the author’s inwards pondering, reflections through understanding the shortcomings of the common human state. With this inner dialogue he compares the outside world which is filled with fear and desire, excitement and disappointment, loneliness and despair, to his own world. He feels different from the common, as he is simple, tranquil, selfless, free like the wind… without attachments. He attributes this to his “nourishing mother” the Tao, a life in harmony with the natural order.
As Artists, we are all human and we live through these “common” feelings, but privileged because we know where this source of liberty that Lao Tzu is getting his nourishment from is. We are there when we are deep into our creative state; totally submerged into it, one with our true self. Only if we could carry this into our everyday life…. Just try it, remember this place for a second or two in the middle of an inner turmoil…. suddenly nothing matters….there is a vast space within and without…
I remind my students of this at my Sumi-e classes; to carry the feeling into the day. One can’t be in one’s studio, or with a brush/pencil in hand creating, but one can imagine, feel that space periodically, where everything is connected and simple….one with Tao.
* I am using  Translation by Derek Lin as examples of verses, but there are many other translations with different nuances and sensibilities of the translator.  
To see my artwork which is inspired by these/Eastern wisdom, please visit my website.   
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