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Dao De Jing [Tao Te Ching]

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Chapter 20

Being Different from Ordinary Men

Different from the Vulgar / The Opposite of the Commonplace

  Original Legge's Translation Susuki's Translation Goddard's Translation
1 When we renounce learning we have no troubles. The (ready) 'yes,' and (flattering) 'yea;'-- Small is the difference they display.
But mark their issues, good and ill;--
What space the gulf between shall fill?
Abandon learnedness, and you have no vexation. The "yes" compared with the "yea," how little do they differ! But the good compared with the bad, how much do they differ!

Avoid learning if you would have no anxiety. The "yes" and the "yea" differ very little, but the contrast between good and evil is very great.

What all men fear is indeed to be feared; but how wide and without end
is the range of questions (asking to be discussed)!

If what the people dread cannot be made dreadless, there will be desolation, alas! and verily, there will be no end of it.

That which is not feared by the people is not worth fearing. But, oh, the difference, the desolation, the vastness, between ignorance and the limitless expression of the Dao.

The multitude of men look satisfied and pleased; as if enjoying a full banquet, as if mounted on a tower in spring. I alone seem listless and still, my desires having as yet given no indication of their presence. I am like an infant which has not yet smiled. I look dejected and forlorn, as if I had no home to go to. The multitude of men all have enough and to spare. I alone seem to have lost everything. My mind is that of a stupid man; I am in a state of chaos.

The multitudes of men are happy, so happy, as though celebrating a great feast. They are as though in springtime ascending a tower. I alone remain quiet, alas! like one that has not yet received an omen. I am like unto a babe that does not yet smile. Forlorn am I, O so forlorn! It appears that I have no place whither I may return home. The multitude of men all have plenty and I alone appear empty. Alas! I am a man whose heart is foolish.

(The balance of this sonnet is devoted to showing the difference between the careless state of the common people and his own vision of the Tao. It is one of the most pathetic expressions of human loneliness, from lack of appreciation, ever written. It is omitted here that it might serve for the closing sonnet and valedictory.)

4 Ordinary men look bright and intelligent, while I alone seem to be benighted. They look full of discrimination, while I alone am dull and confused. I seem to be carried about as on the sea, drifting as if I had nowhere to rest. All men have their spheres of action, while I alone seem dull and incapable, like a rude borderer. (Thus) I alone am different from other men, but I value the nursing-mother (the Dao).

Ignorant am I, O, so ignorant! Common people are bright, so bright, I alone am dull.Common people are smart, so smart, I alone am confused, so confused. Desolate am I, alas! like the sea. Adrift, alas! like one who has no place where to stay. The multitude of men all possess usefulness. I alone am awkward and a rustic too. I alone differ from others, but I prize seeking sustenance from our mother.

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