Friday, November 9, 2007

Reading the Tao Te Ching

Well, a venture today was to find a bookstore with a good selection of translations of the Tao Te Ching. The local Borders had about dozen of so translations, so I sat down with them. I discovered in reading about the Tao Te Ching, besides being stories over the years told and meant to be obscure, vague and whatever description you want to use for open to a lot of interpretation in language, context and meaning, it's been translated almost as often as the Bible.

So after a Mocha, a table and comparing selected verses, I chose the translation by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English, Vintage Publishing, 1972. It's a straight-forward, small paper back with an introduction by Jacob Needleham and just the verses. The rest is up to you. All for $10, and I suspect you can find it cheaper at used bookstores as it's an older translation. The introduction explains the history and background to the text. And it is different from the Bible in one respect.

Where the Bible is a book to a good and moral life, and as interpreted by many to be specific about what you should or or even think, the Tao Te Ching gives you a guide through ideas and leaves the rest to you to discover the truth and answer between you and the universe. It's a guide to a good and moral life, but in stories where the interpretation is up to you. You are your own guide. It knows the world and universe is constantly changing and rigid rules don't work, but a good person knows the Tao (way or path).

Some might think it's more like putting someone in Cairo, Egypt and told to traverse the breadth of the Sahari Desert to Dakar Senegal without a map or compass (ok, GPS too). With the Tao all you have is your moral compass and your innate sense of being good. And with study, practice and observation of the world, you will know what is good and right. It will both think and feel right without thinking or feeling. You will know but can't describe. It will be.

And with my photography, it's much the same. When it works, I'm not thinking or sensing, but just being and doing. The camera and I are, to borrow a worn out cliche, one. This doesn't mean all the images will be good, that's the reality of photography, it's 99% failure. But the one, or if you're lucky, the few, will be worth it, in your heart and mind.

Or at least I'll tell myself on the way with my camera.

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