Thursday, August 27, 2009

Verse 42: One, Two, Three

Verse Forty-Two
Dao sprouted as one.
One sprouted into two.
Two sprouted into three.
Three sprouted into all the living things in the universe.

All living things suffer through darkness and embrace the light.
In the middle, life's energy finds a way to act from the harmony of both.

A person's stance might be to really hate being "alone, isolated and One Without Grain".
Yet the nobility choose to call themselves by that title.

A living thing may be damaged by increase; or may profit by decrease.
Therefore, if a person realizes that their attitude can teach others,
In the evening they will consider and discuss things, teaching each other.

Therefore those who are aggressive and violent will die incomplete.
I'll take these lessons as though they came from my father.
~ Nina Correa translation ~
Everything in this life is derived from the same source. It doesn't matter what you want to call it. It doesn't matter if you worship it or ignore it. It doesn't even matter if your recognize it for what it is because it simply IS.

For Taoists, we call this it, Tao. John Lash explains the opening portion of this verse this way:
From the Tao came existence. Existence was manifested in the Yin and Yang Chi. From the combination of Yin and Yang Chi came heaven, earth, and humanity. All that exists is the creation of heaven, earth, or human beings.
Lao Tzu contends that all existence is manifested by two opposing forces -- yin and yang -- and the default position of the universe is a balance or harmony between the two. Sometimes yang takes precedence, but yin is waiting in the wings. Sometimes yin is dominant, but yang is ready to spring into action.

But, in Diane Dreher's view, Americans, in particular, seem to value yang over yin. This leads to imbalance and disharmony.
...the western mind too often poses dilemmas, forcing us to choose one extreme over the other: day or night, male or female, action or repose.With our preference for yang over yin, American culture equates a successful life with day ("early to bed and early to rise"), the masculine stereotype, and the Puritan work ethic.

In the wisdom of Tao, one extreme complements the other. Action and repose seem opposite, but wise action includes rest, reflection and inner guidance, avoiding the extremes of compulsiveness (excessive yang) or passivity (excessive yin). In our lives and our world, the dynamic balance of these forces bring harmony.
I know that in my life this dichotomy plays itself out quite often. I sometimes have a problem with finding a balance between these two poles. I tend to run either very hot or very cold, very busy or not busy at all. In the last year or so, I've been working hard to avoid the usual peaks and valleys -- but it's definitely a work in progress!

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.


  1. yep, same here. i often admire my husband because he seems to sit in the middle of extremes... truely neutral. as opposed to me... i tend to swing like a pendulum between extremes. it's an interesting way to live life but definitely causes problems. :P i think it's because i desire change in excess. i'm not too keen on stability, unfortunately. :/

  2. Well, now that you have your little baby, I'm guessing the goal of a little stability will come with the territory. : )


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