While rummaging through a bookstore in Iowa City decades ago I happened upon a slim volume with the intriguing title, Tao Teh King by Lao Tzu: Nature and Intelligence, translated by philosopher Archie BahmAs a 20-year-old, I was in a state of full rebellion against my Christian upbringing, the consumerist culture around me, and the pointless violence of the Vietnam War. I was looking for alternative ways of understanding the world, and was taking classes at the University of Iowa on existentialist philosophy and early Buddhist texts. Lao Tzu’s very first sentence hooked me: “Nature can never be completely described, for such a description of Nature would have to duplicate Nature.” The book advised a modest way of life emulating nature’s way. For years afterward, Lao Tzu would be my constant companion, and I still occasionally read that tattered copy.

There are many other translations of Tao Te Ching (this is the English spelling that appears most frequently; a fairly accurate phonetic rendering is Daodejing). Indeed, it’s one of the most frequently translated books. Bahm’s version, which dates from the 1950s, is today not regarded as being scrupulously true to the Chinese text, but it’s clear, coherent, and sensible.

By Richard Heinberg

Read the full article in Resilience.org by Richard Heinberg

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