Monday, November 28, 2011

Line by Line - Verse 52, Line 13

the guarding of what is soft and tender is (the secret of) strength.
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

Yielding to force is strength.
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

Holding on to the soft is called strength
~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

It takes strength
to yield gently to force.

~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
I don't know about you, but I think Ron Hogan nailed this line perfectly! No, it may not be a strict translation, but it captures the essence of the meaning in the popular vernacular.

As a lifelong pacifist, I have never actively participated in a physical fight. In my youth, when another child punched or attacked me, I would roll up in a ball and refuse to respond in-kind.

The other children would call me yellow. "You're such a coward," they would say. In their mind's eye, it took no effort at all to absorb punishment.

I would counter that it takes more courage NOT to strike back. It takes more strength NOT to return blow for blow. Most of us have a built-in revenge facet. If someone abuses us, we want to return the abuse in spades. To not allow oneself to succumb to this basic personality feature takes a lot of self-control. It takes a lot of strength NOT to hit back.

To view the Index page for this series to see what you may have missed or would like to read again, go here.


  1. Then there's that "turn the other cheek" thing...

  2. Yeah, I just watched (part of) that movie Ghandi, man, what an amazing story, taking those beatings and such and not fighting back; him AND his followers.

    I'm not certain that there's never a time for violence, but maybe. I'm also not sure the TTC is necessarily advocating pacivism, but it could be taken that way.

  3. If you haven't seen the whole thing, just a warning: it ends badly.

    Actually, I read this whole verse, 52, as about meditation. So some of this pacifism/violence interpretation does not resonate for me.


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