Lao Tzu Says . . .
About 2,500 years ago a truly inspiring book was written. Even today, The Tao Te Ching contains much that modern people might find relevant. I stumbled upon one such thing yesterday while rereading Stephen Mitchell’s 1988 modern English translation. He begins Chapter 80 with, “If a country is governed wisely, its inhabitants will be content.” The full chapter is more of a short verse (as are all chapters of the Tao Te Ching) but it goes on to make clear that people in a well governed country, which Lao Tzu at the time considered should be ideally more like what we would think of as a community, would have no interest in conquering others or imposing its will on them. This focus is more obvious in other translations.
After being inundated with recent news about the seemingly infantile partisan bickering over the U.S. budget deficit, public reaction to this tragic comedy, and reflecting on how we got to this point, I can’t help thinking that we, as a nation, could benefit from the wisdom of this ancient Chinese philosopher. I may be giving our politicians more credit than they deserve by assuming they can read, let alone understand Lao Tzu’s observations, but I recommend they take a little time out from their never-ending quests for reelection to look at this short book. It’s only about 5,000 words and shouldn’t take them more than a couple hours. Maybe they could find time in their busy schedules the next time they’re on a plane bound for some self promotion event.
(Sorry – just feeling a bit bitter. Politicians should be held to a higher standard because of their positions of authority and responsibility and ours, in my mind, are simply not measuring up.)