道不德 Tao Not Virtue #16
© Tao Fish - bone structure of Daodejing #36 (English commas added).
Copyright ©2019 May 07, 2019
Section #38 of Daodejing is one of the easiest sections to translate, and it is also one of the most self-descriptive sections of all.
A small quantity of the section's words do require that the translator has first read many of the other 'Laozi' sections so as to choose the English synonyms that retain harmony with all sections, as well as requiring that the translator understands what the topic is... without the correct synonyms, the translation has no meaning.
The first sentence, it is perhaps the easiest of all sentences to translate within the section... a translation of the first sentence ought to be smoothly fluid... flow, like, slow guqin... be fully coherent... mentally lucid... rational... of accurate logic... relate to what is real... no contradictions... no imaginations... all words of harmony with the others... have meaning... have understanding... be bright-obvious.
The following are six public domain translations of the first sentence within Daodejing's section #38... all known modern versions available to the public are similar to the public domain versions:
"(Those who) possessed in highest degree the attributes (of the Tao) did not (seek) to show them, and therefore they possessed them (in fullest measure). (Those who) possessed in a lower degree those attributes (sought how) not to lose them, and therefore they did not possess them (in fullest measure)." (James Legge 1891)
"The superior virtue is not conscious of itself as virtue; Therefore it has virtue. The inferior virtue never lets off virtue; Therefore it has no virtue." (Ch'u Ta-Kao 1904)
"Superior energy is non-action, hence it is energy. Inferior energy will not resign action; hence, it is not energy." (Spurgeon Medhurst 1905)
"Superior virtue is unvirtue. Therefore it has virtue. Inferior virtue never loses sight of virtue. Therefore it has no virtue." (D.T. Suzuki & Paul Carus 1913)
"To assume virtue without being really virtuous is to be virtuous from duty; To be less virtuous, yet not to lose real virtue, is to be virtuous from Inner Life." (Isabella Mears 1916)
"Essential teh makes no show of virtue, and therefore it is really virtuous. Inferior virtue never loses sight of itself and therefore it is no longer virtue." (Dwight Goddard 1919)
The following is a direct word-per-word 'right English synonym translation' that is purposefully 'not a correct Laozi dao translation'. The purpose of the knowingly wrong translation is to merely show the quantity of the original Chinese words within their given order, while also showing how many times 德 'virtue' was used in the sentence.
'Upon virtue(德) no virtue(德) yes with exist virtue(德) inferior virtue(德) not fail virtue(德) be because nihility virtue(德).'
Even when using purposefully wrong synonyms, even when attempting to hide the message, the message still shines through... cannot hide, what is bright...
But, if the original words and pattern are ignored, and instead there is an insertion of imaginations of what cannot be true, then yes, the message is dark.
The first sentence of #38, takes, maybe, an hour to translate if an individual has never translated a similar sentence, but understands the topic... takes, maybe, half an hour if familiar with translating ancient Chinese texts, and understands the topic... takes, maybe, less than one minute if understand the topic, and if familiar with 'Laozi's' choices of word-meanings. If not understand the topic, then, days, weeks, months, and still not able to translate meaningfully.
Interested individuals can visit the Chinese Text Project at https://ctext.org/dao-de-jing, scroll down to #38, click on the little blue button to open the dictionary of the section's words, and then, even if only for fun, translate section #38's first sentence for one's self. The dictionary is not ideal, but good enough to catch general ideas of the words' meanings. Firsthand experience... gain, an understanding, of translating.
What is old? As an infant, ten was old... as a pre-teen, thirty was old... at thirty, fifty was old... at fifty, seventy was old... at one-hundred, everyone is young. 老子, Laozi... 老 (lao), meaning 'old, aged'... 子 (zi), meaning 'child, son'... Laozi, often said to infer 'old man'... but how old was he? Was he old to a pre-teen, old to a fifty-year-old, or old to everyone?
'Laozi's' own words, hint of an age... of a life that had been lived... a life of sorrow, and of great happiness... of an age, having gained of firsthand experience, enough to have learned appreciation. An age, perhaps, maybe, forty to sixty... maybe seventy... maybe more... maybe less...
Man exists within Nature's way... man's own rhythms of maturing, are all within harmony of Nature's way... when a man exhibits a behavior, the behavior can be reasoned to have arrived from a rhythm of maturing... the rhythm, suggests the man's age. If 'Laozi' had lived alone, then his words would have been of different topics, suggesting that he may have been around sixty to eighty years old, but his words, spoke of another with him... no information was given of the other's age, but, likely, the age was not too far different... perhaps, no more than five to twenty years, because the other's own rhythms, suggest a similar learning of appreciation, therefore, not young.
Combining and weighing the scales of two individuals' rhythms together, the suggested age might be near sixty or so for 'Laozi'... not old, except to younger individuals... still of energy, still of laughter, still bright of eyes, but having decided what has real value in life.
A rough draft version of Wei Zheng #4 gives a parallel of one's own understanding when younger, and an expectation of what a future age may bring: 'Confucius say: I decade five (15) and aspiration to learn, thirty and upright, forty and not confused, fifty and comprehend heaven fate, sixty and ear listen, seventy and follow heart, place desire not transgress square.'
'Laozi's' words fit the sixty to seventy year range, if he was a normal person... but, if his life's fate had offered the needed learning experiences early in life, and if he had been aware of his dao since before young, then his words could have arrived from the thirty year range... possibly earlier. No one will ever know...
'Laozi' is an invented name, that may not give justice to the man of the good words... his words, and heart, like, slow, soft guqin... maybe, Qinren... 琴 (qin), a seven string zither, and 人 (ren), meaning 'man, people, person'. Qinren, 'warm heart like soft guqin person'... a fitting and good name for all good people of warm heart... maybe I will use the invented name...
But here, in section #38, once again, Qinren had written words that exceeded all known publicly available writings prior to 1980. The whole of Qinren's writings point to 德 'virtue', the same 德 within the book's title 道德經 - Dao De Jing.
The virtue within dao... bright-obvious... overtly obvious... more obvious than the sun and moon of 明... obvious, and understood, long before first seeing the sun and moon...
Divide one oneself... divide one's self... participating in one's own life, enables the ability to understand.