Know When It Is Enough “Tao Te Ching” verse 23 for Artists

by | Jan 8, 2015 | 0 comments

Verse 23*

Sparse speech is natural
Thus strong wind does not last all morning
Sudden rain does not last all day
What makes this so? Heaven and Earth
Even Heaven and Earth cannot make it last
How can humans?
Thus those who follow the Tao are with the Tao
Those who follow virtue are with virtue
Those who follow loss are with loss
Those who are with the Tao, the Tao is also pleased to have them
Those who are with virtue, virtue is also pleased to have them
Those who are with loss, loss is also please to have them
Those who do not trust sufficiently, others have no trust in them 
I find in the first half of the verse, Lao Tzu is showing us the absurdity of human loudness… incessant chatter…and busybody-ness. One thinks, that by all that noise, one will be more effective, but as the author points out…  “..strong wind does not last all morning, and  sudden rain does not last all day…”.




We see this often in everyday life and in the art world as well. The artist wants to be noticed, and often in this self-promoting culture, overdoes it.




So how much is right? Or is there a right amount? Again (as in verse 9),  moderation is the answer. It is applying more self awareness, observing ourselves, sensing the strain that our actions bring from within, and if one acts naturally, the outward expression of self will be that right amount.




Zen arts like sumi-e, shodo, the tea ceremony, haiku poetry are all based on self-awareness. Practicing these arts, with complete presence, the artist understands (senses) when enough has been shown, executed or said…. something that can be so valuable in our everyday life.




In the second half of the verse, the advice is to make sure to notice what we are mostly paying attention to, what we are practising, as we tend to attract ourselves to the same.




The Western mind likes to separate itself from others, and think that it is what is controlling the events and the outcome, but if one gets out of one’s own way, one will soon discover that things do flow in a natural order. That is what Lao Tzu calls “following Tao”.


 * Translation by Derek Lin


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