The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~


Saturday, November 26, 2005

Ocean and River


The Zhuang Zi is one of the great classics of world literature, and one of the pillars of Daoism. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the website where this fragment of the text is from.
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Ocean and River

19 It was the time of autumn floods. Every stream poured into the river, which swelled in its turbid course. The banks receded so far from one another that it was impossible when looking across the river to tell a cow from a horse. Then the river laughed for joy that all the beauty of the earth was gathered to itself. Flowing downstream it journeyed east, until it reached the ocean. There, looking eastwards and seeing no limit to the waves, its face dropped. And as it gazed over the expanse, the river sighed and said to the ocean, A vulgar proverb says that he who has heard but part of the truth thinks no one equal to himself. And such a one am I.

20 To which the ocean replied, You cannot speak of ocean to a frog living in a well—a creature of a narrow sphere. You cannot speak of ice to a summer insect—a creature of a season. You cannot speak of the unvarying way to a pedagogue: his scope is too restricted. But now that you have emerged from your narrow sphere and have seen the great ocean, you know your own insignificance, and I can speak to you of great principles.

21 There is no body of water beneath the skies that is greater than the ocean. All streams pour into it without cease, yet it does not overflow. It is constantly being drained off, yet it is never empty. Spring and autumn bring no change; floods and droughts are equally unknown. And thus it is immeasurably superior to mere rivers and brooks. However, I would not venture to boast on this account, for I get my shape from the universe, my vital power from balance of forces, positive and negative. In the universe I am but as a small stone or a small tree on a vast mountain. And conscious thus of my own insignificance, what is there of which I can boast?

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