The Tao Te Ching struck me as a book with deep philosophical content that is not very easy to understand. The very concept of Tao translated as the “way” is rather general, and one should read the whole book to get a more or less clear idea of what it means. It also impressed me that many things in the book have, in my perception, be felt rather than understood. The infinite and internal Tao is as much a poetic concept as a philosophical one. The lines of the book sound like verses that combine into a poem describing everything that exists on earth.
The distinction between “Yin” and “Yang”, female and male entities has now become a classic. It seems that Lao Tzu emphasizes the female values reflected in the fluid nature of the water and the obscurity of many processes on earth. His stress on balance is very interesting, too, and it made me think whether an exact balance is at all possible in the world. From everything I see in this world, it looks like there is hardly a balance anywhere – in society, in families, in individual life. However, we should perhaps strive for a perfect balance because this intent can make our lives less rough and imbalanced.
I also liked the idea of self-exploration. It is not novel to anyone who has read something from classical philosophy. European science was born out of Greek philosophy including Socrates with his appeal “Know thyself”. Encountering the same idea in philosophic book written on the other end of the globe makes one think that it is after all indeed extremely important to develop insights in one’s own mentality.
The book also teachers an individual to be content with what one is and not to compete with others (Chapter 8). This idea seems hardly compatible with modern Western civilization where competition with others is the main driver behind people’s achievements. It is interesting to imagine what our world would be like if Taoism became the leading philosophy. It would surely mean a dramatic change in our usual lifestyles. Perhaps it would mean less achievement and progress, but the application of this philosophy can also make people happier and more content with their everyday lives.
Tzu, L. (1989). The Tao Te Ching. Paragon.