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A truly good man is unaware

of the good deeds he performs.

Conversely, a foolish man must try

continuously to be good.

A good man seems to do little or nought,

yet he leaves nothing undone.

A foolish man must always strive,

whilst leaving much undone.

The man who is truly wise and kind

leaves nothing to be done,

but he who only acts

according to his nation’s law

leaves many things undone.

A disciplinarian wanting something done

rolls up his sleeves,

enforcing it with violence.

It may be that goodness still remains,

even when the natural way is lost,

and that kindness still exists

when goodness is forgotten.

It may be that justice still remains

when the people are no longer kind,

and when this is lost, that ritual still remains.

However, ritual may be performed

only as an act of faith,

and may be the beginning of confusion,

for even divination and the such

are but the flowery trappings of the Tao,

and are the beginning of great folly.

He who is truly great

does not upon the surface dwell,

but on what lies beneath.

It is said that the fruit is his concern,

rather than the flower.

Each must decide what it might be he seeks,

the flowery trapping,

which comes to summer fullness first,

or the fruit which is beneath.

Lao Tzu (Tao Te Ching)

Translated by Stan Rosenthal


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