lao tzu water quote
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In Thinking, Keep to the Simple – Lao Tzu water quote

You can be soft and strong like water

Water is soft and yet powerful.  It greets you with its pliability and softness. It’s selfless and willing to go to filthy places where no one wants to go, so it knows the ground well. It nourishes the world but never claims credit or try to compete with anyone. It’s, on the other hand, extremely powerful and able to penetrate a hard rock if it’s given time.

Lao Tzu likes to use water as a way to illustrate the virtue of Tao, and also the behaviour of a true gentleman. In the Verse 8 of Tao Te Ching, he enumerates the eight virtues water demonstrates. They serve as good reference for people who’d like to make their life more meaningful. They also teach how to be strong, as water is extremely strong even when it’s soft.

S Michell made a interesting transliteration of the text. It’s not a literal translation, but it captures the spirit of the verse.

The supreme good is like water,
which nourishes all things without trying to.
It is content with the low places that people disdain.
Thus it is like the Tao.

In dwelling, live close to the ground.
In thinking, keep to the simple.
In conflict, be fair and generous.
In governing, don’t try to control.
In work, do what you enjoy.
In family life, be completely present.

When you are content to be simply yourself
and don’t compare or compete,
everybody will respect you.


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