Not Forcing “Tao Te Ching” verse 29 for Artists

by | Apr 29, 2015 | 1 comment

Tao Te Ching Verse 29*

Those who wish to take the world and control it
I see that they cannot succeed
The world is a sacred instrument
One cannot control it
The one who controls it will fail
The one who grasps it will lose
Because all things:
Either lead or follow
Either blow hot or cold
Either have strength or weakness
Either have ownership or take by force
Therefore the sage:
Eliminates extremes
Eliminates excess
Eliminates arrogance
We have been raised with the notion that in order to achieve anything, to get anywhere, we have to take charge, take action. That’s the reason why most of us feel as if we are carrying the world upon our shoulders…. So much effort is taken to accomplish things, and yet we never feel we are really there. We have lost touch with nature, the natural, the Tao. We (arrogantly) think that it is we who are in charge of everything….. pretty big shoes to fill 🙂




We are becoming more and more aware of the impact this has on our planet….




Life, in our minds, seems to be so chaotic, and we think we can control it. Lao Tzu’s message here, is that the world around us including ourselves, is perfect and controlling it only makes things worse. Everything rises from the chaos, and regardless of us it is perfect.




For the artist, often in the discussions it comes up how much of a struggle and a hardship it is to create. Actually, some think it is a prerequisite for creating. But isn’t it interesting how our best artwork happens when we let go of the control, when we just let it happen through us and not against us?




I think the way we experience the world around us and the way we create is a choice. After all, we are here to experience life and create (man is always creating; whether it be so called “art” or anything else). We are all different in our approach, but it is our choice which path we take. If we are wise, we will chose to go with and not against the current of Life: Tao.




In my personal experience… when I get that feeling of tension, this unpleasant tight sensation inside when I paint Sumi-e, draw…..or just go on with my day, I know that I am forcing something….coming off of the path. 

*Translation by Derek Lin 




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