XV – “Tentative, as if fording a river in winter”

Of old he who was well versed in the way

Was minutely subtle, mysteriously comprehending,

And too profound to be known.

It is because he could not be known

That he can only be given a makeshift description:

Tentative, as if fording a river in winter,

Hesitant, as if in fear of his neighbours;

Formal like a guest;

Falling apart like thawing ice;

Thick like the uncarved block;

Vacant like a valley;

Murky like muddy water.

Who can be muddy and yet, stirring, slowly become limpid?

Who can be at rest and yet, stirring, slowly come to life?

He who holds fast to this way

Desires not to be full.

It is because he is not full

That he can be worn and yet newly made. 

Can you make all of your movements, mental and physical, like fording a river in winter: wrapping your foot around a rock, a dry rock, and upon it transferring your body weight, from one leg to the other, one full and fixed, one empty and mobile, and so, with utmost circumspection and concentration, maintain balance?

Hold fast to this way, which is fluid not full, and you will be “worn and yet newly made”: meaning you will still be young in your old age.





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