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Taoist Philosophy - Chapter 117

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The Weak Can Defeat The Strong


In the whole world,
Nothing is softer and more yielding than water,
And yet for attacking the hard and strong,
Nothing can surpass it
Because there is nothing you can use to replace it.
That water can defeat the unyielding;
That the weak can defeat the strong;
There is no one in the whole world who doesn’t know it,
And yet there are few who can put it into practice.
For this reason, the words of the ancients say,
“To take on yourself the disgrace of the state;
This is called being the lord of the altars of Earth and grain;
To assume responsibility
For all ill-omened events in the state;
This is called being the king of the world.”

It is also said by the ancients that
“Who receives unto himself the calumny of the world
Is the preserver of the world.
Who bears himself the sins of the world
Is the king of the world.”

Correct words seem to say
The reverse of what you expect them to say.

Editing to add personal comment.

Here again we see the dualistic concepts of 'weak and strong' where I prefer the dualities of 'flexible and rigid'.

My observations of life tell me that the weak do not defeat anything. How can the weak overcome anything when there is no energy for any action? Water is not weak; it is flexible. Yes, its movement can be weak at times; example, a small lake when no winds are blowing. But my!, what power it has when it reaches a cliff and falls one hunderd or more feet - what strength!

(I apparently could not find anything from Chuang Tzu to support the above concept from Lao Tzu.)

Edited by Marblehead

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My first thought is about the role that women have played in human history (warning: gross generalizations ahead).


Men have had all the default power in most societies, so women have had to use a different strategy to find their power. "Behind every great man is a woman", pulling the strings.


Men compete, struggle, prove themselves, and sweat. Women, on the other hand, have learned how to take advantage of the man's need to feel powerful, masculine, accomplished. Men seek approval of a woman, and the woman uses that to get what she wants.


How does she do that? Not (just) through challenging and contradicting (which is the male's dominion), but by strategic surrender, flowing in such a way as to redirect the man's energy in the path of her choosing.


So, what a great lesson, to learn both from masculine and feminine strategies, to be able to challenge, when useful, and to surrender, when appropriate.


Also, children's survival in society has always been via the strategy of "I'm cute, so don't kill me". When you don't have power, it sure helps if you're cute (unless you're in a Catholic boys' school).


Fighting and forcing take a great toll, in the form of energy, time, and emotional peace. Sometimes fighting may be the best possible route, but that situation is probably more rare than it seems. My urge to fight has rarely brought me anything more than some temporary satisfaction (and it's always a contaminated, jumpy, adrenaline form of satisfaction).

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When you don't have power, it sure helps if you're cute (unless you're in a Catholic boys' school).


Well, that wasn't the deepest cut of all but it was pretty close. Hehehe. True though. Sad.

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