I’ve been reading Stephen Mitchell’s new English version of the Tao te Ching. His approach is clear: not a translation from a language point of view because he neither reads nor writes Chinese; but a new English “version” of what SM thinks Lao Tzu would have said, had his words not been misintrepreted or understated by others throughout the eons.
Well, I’m glad he thinks he knows what Lao Tzu was all about and would have wanted to say. I majored in history so I have some knowledge about historiography: how events are interpreted and re-interpreted through the years until there is no semblance of what really happened or was actually written or said at the time. All that’s left are the footprints of people who wrote about them from their own point of view, one layered upon or next to another.
I remember meeting Stephen Mitchell who was in the same class as my ex-husband at Amherst College. He had long hair then, like many others. He’s come a long way since then–and after divorcing his first wife, an Asian acupuncturist named Joyce to whom this volume is dedicated, embarked on a second marriage with the very visible, Byron Katie, who espouses a methodology called “The Work.” What a change! Katie’s “work” requires that you turn every negative and ugly thought you have about someone back onto yourself (as though it’s only a projection in your mind.) I’ve tried it when I first read about it and found it a stretch at times. An odd combo, (the Tao and “projections”) it seems to me. But what do I know?
In any case, I read the Tao te Ching paperback in a relatively short time. I liked Mitchell’s alternating use of the gender “he” and “she” to represent the Tao. Many women, he says, appreciated this device of making the omniscient female as well as male.That’s a first, I think. In any case, reading this writing does take me out of the realm of usual thought. Refreshing actually. Calming too. Here’s one I thought might be appropriate to post, given the thread of thoughts, reactions and sentiments expressed in both my blogs recently.
Failure is an opportunity.
If you blame someone else,
there is no end to the blame.
Therefore the Master
fulfills her own obligations
and corrects her own mistakes.
She does what she needs to do
and demands nothing of others.
With this reading, I’m ready to head into the weekend. What about you?