May 07, 2007


According to an old legend, one of the wisest books ever written came about by accident.

Lao Tzu, or Laozi in pinyin , lived in the 6th century BC and was a archivist during the Zhou dynasty. When he became tired of the artificialities of court life, he gave up his post and retreated westward to the wilderness.

At a frontier post, a gatekeeper asked him to write down his teachings so they would not be lost to the world. The result was the Tao Te Ching, or the Classic of the Way and its Power, a short work of 5000 characters and 81 brief chapters.

Actually, none of this probably happened and there may never have been a Lao Tzu, but it doesnt' matter. We have the book. If I could, I'd give everyone in the world a copy of it.

The Tao or Dao that gives the book its name is usually translated as the Way, meaning the ultimate principle or natural order of things. We can observe and infer things about it but ultimately it is something beyond name and form, as the Tao Te Ching states in its opening lines:

The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.

Although some people have read it as a mystical work, I think it's the most practical book ever written. Its insights can be useful in all aspects of public and private life. Short version: people can live in harmony with the nature of things (including people) or not. The correct answer is the former.

More on this later.

NOT IN HARMONY WITH THE TAO. A basic idea of the Tao Te Ching is that aggression provokes resistance and feeds violence. If you want to see a perfect example of an anti-Taoist, look no further than the White House. If you want to see the consequences, look at the world. The latest tragic example comes from a Pentagon survey of the mental health of U.S. troops serving in Iraq. The NY Times reports that the results of the survey

suggested that extended tours and multiple deployments, among other policy decisions, could escalate anger and increase the likelihood that soldiers or marines lash out at civilians, or defy military ethics.

ON THE OTHER HAND, the same paper carried this item on the growing political clout of some anti-war groups.

CHAMBER CONTINUES WAR ON WV. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce continues to flood the airwaves with ads attacking WV's legal climate. This doesn't seem to be getting them anywhere. This is from today's Gazette. Here's hoping they spend it all.


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