Saturday, December 21, 2013

Bit by Bit - Chapter 25, Part 11

Trey Smith

The border guard of Chang-wu said to Tzu-lao, "In running the government you mustn't be slipshod; in ordering the people you mustn't be slapdash! In the past I used to grow grain. I plowed in a slipshod way and got a slipshod crop in return. I weeded in a slapdash way and got a slapdash crop in return. The following year I changed my methods, plowing deeper than before and raking with great care - the grain grew thick and luxuriant, and I had all I wanted to eat for the whole year!"

Chuang Tzu, hearing of this, said, "People of today, when they come to ordering their bodies and regulating their minds, too often do it in a manner like that which the border guard described. They turn their backs on the Heavenly part, deviate from the inborn nature, destroy the true form, and annihilate the spirit, just to be doing what the crowd is doing. So he who is slipshod with his inborn nature will find the evils of desire and hate affecting his inborn nature like weeds and rushes. When they first sprout up, he thinks they will be a comfort to the body, but in time they end by stifling the inborn nature. Side by side they begin to break out and ooze forth, not on just one part of the body but all over. Festering ulcers and boils, internal fevers and pus-filled urine - these are the results!"

~ Burton Watson translation ~
Slipshod and slapdash both mean to be careless (though the former also means to be sloppy, while the latter also includes being hasty). Both words aptly describe the basic human condition! We are a careless species...often to our own detriment.

To view the Index page for this series, go here.

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