Call a man a sycophant and he flushes with anger; call him a flatterer and he turns crimson with rage. Yet all his life he will continue to be a sycophant, all his life he will continue to be a flatterer. See him set forth his analogies and polish his fine phrases to draw a crowd, until the beginning and end, the root and branches of his argument no longer match! See him spread out his robes, display his bright colors, put on a solemn face in hopes of currying favor with the age - and yet he does not recognize himself as a sycophant or a flatterer. See him with his followers laying down the law on right and wrong and yet he does not recognize himself as one of the mob. This is the height of foolishness!In a world built on hierarchy, it often is easy to find ourselves sucking up to those we deem to be more influential and powerful. We attempt to fasten ourselves to their coattails in the belief -- frequently a mistaken one -- that we too can be viewed as influential and powerful. But, in the overall scheme of things, influence and power are illusory. They don't mean squat to Tao.
~ Burton Watson translation ~
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