2008/05/20

My Favorite Book

You may remember that back when I had my old blog, Diane tagged me to reveal to you the one single book which I absolutely could not live without. Just for good measure I couldn't name the Bible, which I might not have named anyway. And, I suppose that for those liturgical types our prayer books are excluded too.

I was sorely tempted to do some kind of sneaky compromise which allowed me to name one dozen books, or all the books on one book shelf, instead of just one single book. But, for once in my life I am actually following the rules and I will now reveal to you the one book I wouldn't want to give up:

Tao Te Ching
by Lao Tsu
translated by Gia-Fu and Jane English

Sometimes when I need perspective, I turn here. It helps me remember that this life is short, that I may not know so much as I think, and that softness, a supple spirit, will survive almost anything while hardness will break.

Lao Tsu's basic teaching is that the Tao that can be told is not the real, or eternal, Tao. Interestingly, and unlike so many in other traditions, Lao Tsu doesn't presume to tell us what the eternal Tao is. He just reminds us that if we think we know what it is, we don't.

The legend is that, heartsick at the state of the world, Lao Tsu was on his way out to the desert to die. As he passed the gate going out of northwestern China the gatekeeper persuaded him to write down his teachings for posterity.

As a blogger I sometimes think about that and I wonder what I would write if it were the last thing I would ever post. What is my own basic teaching? Fortunately, I have the rest of my life to get that worked out.

Here's a chapter of Lao Tsu's teaching which I like a lot:

Yield and overcome;
Bend and be straight;
Empty and be full;
Wear out and be new;
Have little and gain;
Have much and be confused.

Therefore wise men embrace the one
And set an example to all.
Not putting on a display,
They shine forth.
Not justifying themselves,
They are distinguished.
Not boasting,
They receive recognition.
Not bragging,
They never falter.
They do not quarrel,
So no one quarrels with them.
Therefore the ancients say, "Yield and overcome."
Is that an empty saying?
Be really whole,
And all things will come to you.

Thanks for this cool Meme Diane. I enjoyed spending some extra time going through my books and thinking about which I really like most. I am tagging Grendel because I want to know what dogs really read, Alcibiades because he's so interesting, Barbi because she's so cool, my favorite cousin Sherry, and Ann because I just want to hear her answer. Ann's book is another one I reach for pretty often. Unfortunately, I've given away my copy of Streams Of Mercy AGAIN so I'll be ordering another one.

Love to everybody.

You can read Barbi's answer here.

You can read Alcibiades's answer here.

3 comments:

Diane said...

thanks for playing! what a wonderful perspective.

I am so tired. a good tired, but still....

I barely made my hands come over here.

Lindy said...

I'm glad you clicked over. Have fun at the Festival! Lindy

Presbyterian Gal said...

I love this! Now I want to go read all Lao Tsu's writings.

"Yield and overcome" could have come from my improvisation teacher!

I'm glad you played this one.