Sunday, December 27, 2009

Wen Tzu - Verse 95, Part II

from Verse Ninety-Five
The way of heaven is to reduce what is much to add to what is little; the way of earth is to decrease what is high to augment what is low...The way of humanity is not to give to those who have much.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
To be quite candid, this passage baffles me. While I agree with the observation that nature itself always seeks to balance, I certainly would not say this is the way of humanity!

In present society -- I think the same is true throughout human history -- those who have are given more and those who have not are given less. In fact, I would say that the little the many have often is redistributed to the few who have in excess.

If things were not this way, then we would not live in a world marked by vulgar opulence versus grinding poverty. We would not live in a world in which some people live on thousands of dollars per day while others live on a few pennies per day.

So, if one of you would like to explain what I'm missing, please be my guest!

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


  1. The way of heaven: Entropy in process. The running down of all things. Mighty stars reduced to burned-out husks. Fewer stars and more husks.

    The way of earth: Entropy again: Mighty mountains reduced to alluvial plains: the high places lower, while the lower places become higher.

    The way of humanity: Nonsense and unreason.

    Makes complete - if perverse - sense to me.
    Who is "given more" or "given less"? In the real world, nobody is "given" anything.
    People generally have to do something to get something.

    If Lao Tzu did indeed write that verse, his meaning is obscure. Maybe he was human, after all.

    Notice, though, that what he says about humanity is apparently an observation, not a judgement.
    Humanity does not give to those who have much.
    Why should they? It is not necessary.

    The sentence is what it is.
    Whether or not one understands it.

    I have found that it is useful to put aside what one does not understand, without forcing a meaning onto it.
    Later, the meaning may crystallize all by itself.

  2. You should be happy with this entry then because I didn't force a meaning onto it! :)

  3. Happy, no. Surprised, yes.
    I don't know what it means either.
    I see what it might mean.
    Knowing comes later.

  4. The more I think of this passage the more I begin to see the equality line drawing itself out vividly.

    The way of heaven is to reduce what is much add to what is little.(striving equality, a natural balance, not necessarily entropy. Stars are being born constantly. In some areas far faster than they are burning out)

    The way of earth is to decrease what is high to augment what is low: erosion of mountains and shorelines... again striving thru natural law to achieve balance.

    but suprisingly he says in this last part, not what we do... but rather what we do not do. Humanity does not give to those who have much. Rather, those who have much develop ways to take more. Unfortunately, those who have little have no way of getting more and those in the middle are typically terrified of being thrust into the lower bracket, and therefore cling to their worldly posessions.

    I believe the mistake that we all made initially, myself included, was that the final statement inferred that humanity gave to those with less... when in fact one does not logically denote the other.

  5. The DJ,
    That's an excellent point!! I think I understand it better now.

  6. ... is not to give 'what thing'?.

    Is this about a tangible 'thing' after all?.

  7. I need to read the whole passage, but my first thought is that(as is traditionally expressed) the way of heaven is yang, the way of earth is has both yang and yin aspects. In the post-yang/post-heaven state in which humanity finds itself, there is always imbalance, unjust distribution of assets, war and so on.

    I'm not sure what is meant by "the way of humanity" here.


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