bobby1933 (bobby1933) wrote,

Tao Te Ching Meditation - Chapter 80: Eutopia

80.1 A small state has few people.
       It has the people keep arms
       but not use them.
       It has them regard death gravely
       and not go on distant campaigns.
80.2 Even if they have vehicles,
       they have nowhere to drive them.
       Even if they have weapons,
       they have nowhere to use them.
80.3 It has the people go back
       to simple techniques,
       relish their food,
       like their clothes,
       be comfortable in their ways,
       and enjoy their work.
80.4 Neighboring states may be so close
      they can hear each other's dogs and roosters,
      but they make it so that the people
       have never gone back and forth.

Tao Teh Ching - Cleary Translation


Here are two nice commentaries on this chapter, one by Nina Correa, the other by Carl Abbot

These commentaries are different enough to be interesting, but similar enough to reflect a common understanding of the TTC.  My comments are different, but also, i hope relevant to the text.

I have long been interested in "utopian" and "dystopian" writing and also in city planning and "nation building."  Though i know too little about any of these things to have reached conclusions worth sharing, i shall do so anyway.

Utopian prophecy and fiction are harmless and probably beneficial as long as they are not taken seriously.  They might actually plant seeds of hope in minds that will come to despretly need those seeds.

Dystopian prophecy and fiction are probably dangerous.  I cite Ayn Rand and The Turner Diaries, not to mention my favorite Report From Iron Mountain.  These dystopias are probably achievable and i remember that one person's meat is another's poison.

Planning is probably useless to dangerous depending on the power and arrogance of the planners.  Plans must map the complexity of the situation being planned for which is nearly or absolutely impossible.  "Comprehensive" plans always end up harming more people than they help.  This is true in both the short and medium range run.  (Of course, as Keynes said, in the long run we are all dead anyway.)

Thus i should not be tempted to treat Chapter 80 as political analysis but to treat the "country" as a metaphor for myself, as both Correa and Abbot do.  It would be hard to bring the world to anything approximating the Taoist vision.  How small is a small country?  Plato thought that the ideal size of a city-state would be 5040.  Did this include women and children?  Did it include slaves (who were part of the taken for granted cultural landscape of Plato's Greece).  Actually 5040 is not a bad number, possibly optimal for many occasions, large enough to accomplish many practical collective tasks, small enough to satisfy the definition of "community."  But the number was arrived at numeralogically rather than logically, and the population of the planet would require about fourteen million such communities.  Such a situation could not occur spontaneously and could not be contrived.

So i am left to try to apply this chapter to my own life.  Living with simple but sufficient resources, minding my own business, but living this simple, unobtrusive life as part of a community.  Yeah, i could do that.  If i lived the way i should, i should have nothing to worry about.

Prayer:  Holy Loving:If i were as a city set on a hill, i would be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.  My gates would be open but i would not leave.  My hospitality would be without conditions or demands.  May it be so.


Tags: tao te ching
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