Category Archives: Laozi

Quote for the Week

A person of high virtue is not conscious of virtue and therefore possesses Virtue.A person of little virtue tries to be virtuous and therefore lacks Virtue.A person of high virtue does not make a fuss and is not seen.A person of little virtue always makes a fuss and is always seen.A truly good person functions without ulterior motive.A moralist acts out of private desires.A ritualist acts and, when no one responds, rolls up a sleeve and marches.When we lose the Tao, we turn to Virtue.When we lose Virtue, we turn to kindness.When we lose kindness, we turn to morality.  When we lose morality, we turn to ritual.Ritual is the mere husk of good faith and loyalty and the beginning of disorder.Knowledge of what is to come may be a flower of the Tao, but it is the beginning of folly.Hence, the well-formed person relies on what is solid and not on what is flimsy,on the fruit and not the flower.Therefore, such a person lets go of that without and is content with this within.

–Laozi, Dao De Qing (Tao Te Ching), chapter 38; courtesy of here.

If You See Yoda on the Road, Kill Him! A Defense of The Last Jedi

I am, of course, aware that Yoda is already dead, and has been for decades (to say nothing of being a fictional character).  Bear with me on this….  Beginning in 2015, the long-dormant big-screen incarnation of the Star Wars franchise was revived.  All the original cast returned, playing their iconic characters, and fresh new faces playing new characters were also present.  It was the first time since Revenge of the Sith in 2005 that a big-screen Star Wars movie had been made at all, and the first time since Return of the Jedi in 1983–thirty-two years previously!–that the original cast was back in action.  As of this writing (July 2019), two of the movies of the third and final trilogy–The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi–have been released, with the third, The Rise of Skywalker, slated for release in five months.  Two standalone movies, Rogue One and Solo have also been released, and further movies with a new cast are projected; but the main attention has been focused on the three movies which conclude the Skywalker saga.  Fan and critical reaction has been sharply divided on the two released so far, with seeming storms of controversy regarding The Last Jedi in particular.

I don’t really have anything to add to the discussion in terms of a conventional movie review or rating.  It’s been forty-two years since the original Star Wars debuted, and I still don’t think The Empire Strikes Back has been topped.  I certainly don’t have any interest in further stirring the pot of accusations and counter-accusations of sexism, racism, political correctness, and so on and so forth.  More heat than light has been generated on this front, and I doubt there is much likelihood of dialogue in this area, anyway.

What I do want to look at is the metaphysics, or perhaps more precisely, the philosophical and spiritual themes that are present in The Last Jedi and which have been little remarked on in all the tempestuous arguments about other issues.  I think The Last Jedi has definite flaws (some of which, in fairness, were inherited from the plot of its predecessor, and some of the stupid and cockamamie decisions J. J. Abrams made in writing the script for said predecessor), drags somewhat in the middle, and arguably loses focus a bit by expanding the already expanded cast even further.  I definitely would not place it above The Empire Strikes Back.  All that said, I would argue that Last Jedi is actually the second-best movie of the seven Skywalker-centric sequels and prequels to the original Star Wars, right after Empire (and allowing for the fact that Episode IX has not yet been released).  This, I assert, is because of the themes I have already alluded to, and because The Last Jedi is the only movie in the entire Star Wars franchise to take those themes seriously since The Empire Strikes Back (Rogue One made a nod towards some of these themes, but not to the extent that Last Jedi does).  Some of these films have been around quite awhile, and some not; but just to play fair, SPOILERS ABOUND for all the movies in the franchise from this point onward–tread with caution!

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The Tao Te Ching: My “Go-To” Translation

LaoTzu(310x398)

Having discussed which “translations” of the Tao Te Ching I would not recommend, I’ll begin my discussion of other versions with what I’d consider my “go-to” translation–that of D. C. Lau.

Lau was an expert in Classical Chinese and translated many Confucian and Taoist works for the Penguin Classics series.  He also helped develop London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies into a world-renowned center for studies of Chinese culture and philosophy.  His translation of the Tao Te Ching, originally made in 1963 and revised periodically (I think he did a revision in the 1980’s taking into account the Mawangdui manuscripts) is still in print, and can be read online here.  I have to say upfront that this is not actually my favorite translation.  The literary style isn’t bad, but Lau can be a bit stilted at times, and he is definitely less poetic in style than many translators.  Why, then, is his my go-to translation?  The answer in brief is that I trust him more; but that will require some unpacking.

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