Monday, September 26, 2011

Stone vs. Tree


Yellow Birch, Adirondacks, by Michael Melford for National Geographic

The giant pine tree
grows from a tiny sprout.
The journey of a thousand miles
starts from beneath your feet.

    —Tao Te Ching, 64


On reading the passage above, this Westerner immediately thought "Oh, this means I should set a goal and work towards it little by little." But I don't think Taoists sages were very goal-oriented! (I think their disposition had something to do with desiring to have no desire . . . ) The goals of Taoism seems much less will-driven.

So what's the moral of the story? Patiently cultivate your life, appreciate the miracles that can come in the tiniest packages, and welcome the surprising twists that come along the journey.

Here's the full text:

What is rooted is easy to nourish.
What is recent is easy to correct.
What is brittle is easy to break.
What is small is easy to scatter.

Prevent trouble before it arises.
Put things in order before they exist.
The giant pine tree
grows from a tiny sprout.
The journey of a thousand miles
starts from beneath your feet.

Rushing into action, you fail.
Trying to grasp things, you lose them.
Forcing a project to completion,
you ruin what was almost ripe.

Therefore the Master takes action
by letting things take their course.
He remains as calm
at the end as at the beginning.
He has nothing,
thus has nothing to lose.
What he desires is non-desire;
what he learns is to unlearn.
He simply reminds people
of who they have always been.
He cares about nothing but the Tao.
Thus he can care for all things.

    —Tao Te Ching, 64, translated by Stephen Mitchella

For more "tree takeovers" see this flickr gallery.

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