Archive for August, 2010

Posted: August 28, 2010 in Quotes

Everything is a gift of the universe.

– Ken Keyes, Jr., Movie: Precious


[Different version of text and its corresponding translation by Wikisource]

Introduction by Huston Smith

  • As soon as human beings started considering themselves the source of the highest meaning in the world and the measure of everything, meaning begin to ebb, and the stature of man to shrink. The world lost its human dimension, and man began to lose control of it.
  • …East Asian civilization is more occupied than others with the question of how people, if wisely ruled, can live together in peace and harmony.
  • With water again as its teacher, it invites us to see that much of our flailing in life’s river stems from our thinking that we must labor mightily to stay afloat. We do not realize how much its water supports us of its own accord.
  • Recognizing the extent to which our civilization is fatally out of balance with itself and the natural world, seeking a deeper and truer integration of human ways with the eternal ways…

Te [德]: Integrity

  • The person of superior integrity takes no action, nor has he a purpose for acting.
  • It is necessary to be noble, and yet take humility as a basis. It is necessary to be exalted, and yet take modesty as a foundation.
  • When the inferior man hears the Way, he laughs at it loudly. If he did not laugh, it would not be fit to be the Way.
  • The great square has no corners. The great vessel is never completed. The great note sounds muted. The great image has no form. The Way is concealed and has no name.
  • All creatures under heaven are born from being; being is born from nonbeing.
  • The Way gave birth to unity, unity gave birth to duality, duality gave birth to trinity, trinity gave birth to the myriad creatures.
  • Nonbeing penetrates nonspaces. Hence, I know the advantage of nonaction. The doctrine without words, the advantage of nonaction – few under heaven can realize these!
  • Know contentment and you shall not be disgraced, know satisfaction and you shall not be imperiled; then you will long endure.
  • No guilt is greater than giving in to desire, no disaster is greater than discontent, no crime is more grievous than the desire for gain. Therefore, contentment that derives from knowing when to be content is eternal contentment.
  • The farther one goes, the less one knows. For this reason, the sage knows without journeying, understands without looking, accomplishes without acting.
  • The sage never has a mind of his own; he considers the minds of the common people to be his mind.
  • Treat well those who are good, also treats well those who are not good; thus is goodness attained.
  • They Way gives birth to them and integrity nurtures them. Matter forms them and function completes them.
  • It gives birth but does not possess, acts but does not presume, rears but does not control -> mysterious integrity
  • Seeing what is small is called insight, abiding in softness is called strength.
  • What is firmly established cannot be uprooted; what is tightly embraced cannot slip away.
  • Harmony implies constancy; constancy requires insight.
  • One who knows does not speak; one who speaks does not know.
  • The more taboos under heaven, the poorer the people; the more clever devices people have, the more confused the state and ruling house; the more knowledge people have, the more strange things spring up; the more legal affairs are given prominence, the more numerous bandits and thieves.
  • Be square but not cutting, angular but not prickly, straight but not arrogant, bright but not dazzling.
  • Seek and thou shalt receive; sin and thou shalt be forgiven.
  • Act through nonaction, handle affairs though noninterference, taste what has no taste, regard the small as great, the few as many, repay resentment with integrity. Undertake difficult tasks by approaching what is easy in them; do great deeds by focusing on their minute aspects. All difficulties under heaven arise from what is easy, all great things under heaven arise from what is minute. For this reason, the sage never strives to do what is great. Therefore, he can achieve greatness.
  • Act before there is a problem; bring order before there is disorder.
  • Who acts fails; who grasps loses.
  • The people are hard to rule because they have too much knowledge.
  • Sincere words are not beautiful, beautiful words are not sincere. He who knows is not learned, he who is learned does not know. He who is good does not have much, he who has much is not good. The sage does not hoard. The more he does for others, the more he has himself; the more he gives to others, the more his own bounty increases.
  • I have always possessed three treasures that I guard and cherish. The first is compassion, the second is frugality, the third is not daring to be ahead of all under heaven.
  • I dare not be host, but would rather be guest; I advance not an inch, but instead retreat a foot.
  • The sage is self-aware, but does not flaunt himself; he is self-devoted, but does not glorify himself.
  • Heaven’s nest is vast; though its meshes are wide, nothing escapes.
  • Only she who acts not for the sake of life is wiser than those who value life highly.
  • Human beings are soft and supple when alive, stiff and straight when dead. The myriad creatures, the grasses and trees are soft and fragile when alive, dry and withered when dead. Therefore, it is said: the rigid person is a disciple of death; the soft, supple, and delicate are lovers of life. An army that is inflexible will not conquer; a tree that is inflexible will snap. The unyielding and mighty shall by brought low; the soft, supple, and delicate will be set above.
  • The Way of heaven reduces surplus to make up for scarcity; the Way of man reduces scarcity and pays tribute to surplus.
  • The sage acts but does not possess, completes his work but does not dwell on it. In this fashion, he has no desire to display his worth.
  • True words seems contradictory.

Tao [道]: The Way

  • The sage dwells in affairs of nonaction, carries out a doctrine without words. He lets the myriad creatures rise up but does not instigate them; he acts but does not presume; he completes his work but does not dwell on it. Now, simply because he does not dwell on them, his accomplishment never leave him.
  • Not exalting men of worth prevents the people from competing; not putting high value on rare goods prevents the people from being bandits; not displaying objects of desire prevents people from being disorderly.
  • Hearing too much leads to utter exhaustion; better to remain in the center.
  • The sage withdraws himself but comes to the fore, alienates himself but is always present.
  • …the quality of the heart is in its depth, the quality of giving lies in trust…the quality of movement depends on timing.
  • When gold and jade fill your rooms, no one will be able to guard them for you. If wealth and honor make you haughty, you bequeath misfortune upon yourself.
  • Thirty spokes converge on a single hub, but it is in the space where there is nothing that the usefulness of the cart lies. Clay is molded to make a pot, but it is in the space where there is nothing that the usefulness of the clay pot lies. Cut out doors and windows to make a room, but it is in the spaces where there is nothing that the usefulness of the room lies. Therefore, benefit may be derived from something, but it is in nothing that we find usefulness.
  • If turbid waters are stilled, they will gradually become clear; if something inert is set in motion, it will gradually come to life.
  • Attain utmost emptiness, maintain utter stillness.
  • Abolish sagehood and abandon cunning, the people will benefit a hundredfold; abolish humaneness and abandon righteousness, the people will once again be filial and kind; abolish cleverness and abandon profit, bandits and thieves will be no more.
  • Evince the plainness of undyed silk, embrace the simplicity of the unhewn log; lessen selfishness, diminish desires; abolish learning and you will be without worries.
  • He whom others fears, likewise cannot but fear others.
  • One who aspires to the Way, does not abide in them.
  • If it is bend, it will be preserved intact; is crooked, it will be straightened; is sunken, it will be filled; is worn-out, it will be renewed; has little, it will gain; has much, it will be confused. For these reasons, the sage holds on to unity and serves as the shepherd of all under heaven. He is not self-absorbed, therefore he shines forth; he is not self-revealing, therefore he is distinguished; he is not self-assertive, therefore he has merit; he does not praise himself, therefore, he is long-lasting. Now, simply because he does not compete, no one can compete with him.
  • Being great implies flowing ever onward, flowing ever onward implies far-reaching, far-reaching implies reversal.
  • Heavy is the root of light; calm is the ruler of haste.
  • He who is skilled at traveling leaves neither tracks nor traces; he who is skilled at speaking is flawless in his delivery; he who is skilled in computation uses neither tallies nor counters; he who is skilled at closing things tightly has neither lock nor key, but what he closes cannot be opened; he who is good at binding has neither cord nor string, but what he binds cannot be untied.
  • Know masculinity, maintain femininity, and be a ravine for all under heaven. By being a ravine for all under heaven, eternal integrity will never desert you. If eternal integrity never deserts you, you will return to the state of infancy. Know you are innocent, remain steadfast when insulted, and be a valley for all under heaven. By being a valley for all under heave, eternal integrity will suffice. If eternal integrity suffices, you will return to the simplicity of the unhewn log. Know whiteness, maintain blackness, and be a model for all under heaven, eternal integrity does not err. If integrity does not err, your will return to infinity. When the unhewn log is sawn apart, it is made into tools; when the sage is put to use, he becomes the chief of officials.
  • The sage rejects extremes, rejects excess, rejects extravagance.
  • If something grows old while still in its prime, this is called “not being in accord with the Way.” Not being in accord with the Way leads to an early demise.
  • He places placidity above all and refuses to prettify weapon; if one prettifies weapons, this is to delight in the killing of others.
  • Knowing when to stop, one thereby avoids peril.
  • The relationship of all under heaven to the Way is like that of valley streams to the river and the sea.
  • Understanding others is knowledge, understanding oneself is enlightenment; conquering others is power, conquering oneself is strength; contentment is wealth, forceful conduct is willfulness; not losing one’s rightful place is to endure, to die but not to be forgotten is longevity.
  • When you wish to contract something, you must momentarily expand it; when you wish to weaken something, you must momentarily strengthen it; when you wish to reject something, you must momentarily join with it; when you wish to seize something, you must momentarily give it up. This is called “subtle insight.”
  • The soft and weak conquer the strong.
  • …they will be still, whereupon heaven and earth will be made right by themselves.

Afterword by Victor H. Mair

  • The best way to control is through minimal interference and by keeping the people simple, without knowledge and without desire – two pervasive themes of the Tao Te Ching.

Posted: August 25, 2010 in Quotes

Whenever trade occurs between two countries, mutual cultural borrowing is inevitable.

Posted: August 25, 2010 in Quotes

What is the use of running when we are not on the right way?

– German proverb

Posted: August 25, 2010 in Quotes

The supreme perfection of actionlessness

He attains though renunciation.

– Bhagavad Gita, XVIII.49.3-4

Posted: August 25, 2010 in Quotes, Yoga

Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.

Physical health is not a commodity to be bargained for, nor can it be swallowed in the form of drugs and pills — it has to be earned through sweat. It is something that we must build up.

B.K.S. Iyengar

  • For most gulls, it is not flying that matters, but eating.
  • We can lift ourselves out of ignorance, we can find ourselves as creatures of excellence and intelligence and skill. We can be free! We can learn to fly!
  • Who is more responsible than a gull who finds and follows a meaning, a higher purpose for life?
  • His one sorrow was not solitude, it was that other gulls refused to believe the glory of flight that awaited them; they refused to open their eyes and see.
  • Jonathan Seagull discovered that boredom and fear and anger are the reasons that a gull’s life is so short, and with these gone from his thought, he lived a long fine life indeed.
  • For you have learned. One school is finished, and the times has come for another to begin.
  • The most important thing in living was to reach out and touch perfection in that which they most loved to do, and that was to fly.
  • …that place where the Flock lived with its eyes tightly shut to the joy of flight, using its wings as means to the end of finding and fighting for food.
  • …forgetting right away where we had come from, not caring where we were headed, living for the moment.
  • We choose our next world through what we learn in this one.
    • Learn nothing, and the next world is the same as this one, all the same limitations…
  • Heaven is not a place, and it is not a time. Heaven is being perfect.
  • …any number is a limit, and perfection doesn’t have limits. Perfect speed is being there.
    • …true nature lived, as perfect as an unwritten number, everywhere at once across space and time.
  • The gulls who scorn perfection for the sake of travel go nowhere, slowly. Those who put aside travel for the sake of perfection go everywhere, instantly.
  • …his own way of demonstrating love was to give something of the truth that he had seen to a gull who asked only a chance to see truth for himself.

The gull sees farthest who flies highest.

  • Overcome space, and all we have left is Here. Overcome time, and all we have left is Now.
  • …he knew with practiced ease that he was not bone and feather but a perfect idea of freedom and flight, limited by nothing at all.
  • Still, it was easier for them to practice high performance than it was to understand the reason behind it.
  • Each of us is in truth an idea of the Great Gull, an unlimited idea of freedom…and precision flying is a step toward expressing our real nature. Everything that limits us we have to put aside.
  • Break the chains of your thought, and you break the chains of your body, too…
  • We are free to go where we wish and to be what we are.
    • You have the freedom to be yourself, your true self, here and now, and nothing can stand in your way.
  • …freedom is the very nature of his being, that whatever stands against that freedom must be set aside, be it ritual or superstition or limitation in any form.
    • The only true law is that which leads to freedom. There is no other.
  • Why is it that the hardest thing in the world is to convince a bird that he is free, and that he can prove it for himself if he’d just spend a little time practicing? Why should that be so hard?
  • You have to practice and see the real gull, the good in every one of them, and to help them see it in themselves. That’s what I mean by love.
  • Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding, find out what you already know, and you’ll see the way to fly.
  • To begin with, you’ve got to understand that a seagull is an unlimited idea of freedom, an image of the Great Gull, and your whole body, from wingtip to wingtip, is nothing more than your thought itself.
  • Xenophobia – fear or hatred of what is foreign or strange.


  • Earthworms therefore were not only creating the planet’s thin layer of fertile oil; they were also constantly turning it inside out.
  • On sloping land, where rainwater and wind would sweep their castings away and down into valleys, they were making huge contribution to erosion.
  • Think about the formation of vegetable mould, and the relentless swallowing, digesting, burrowing, and casting off of waste by which earthworms topple and bury the monuments of defunct civilizations while freshening the soil for new growth. Think about how sometimes it’s the little things that turn the world inside out.

Amazon Fishes and Trees

  • Remove the trees, and you can expect the fish to disappear. Kill off the fish, and likewise some of those tree species (the ones that depend on fish for dispersing their seeds) may not survive. Contrary to common misconception, the soils from which grow the Amazon jungle are very poor, and the river draining those soils are also therefore infertile. So the fish that spend half their lives in those rivers depend utterly on the manna that falls in the forest, and on the floods that carry them to it.


  • According to Brownell, the scorpion orients itself toward the focus of any such disturbance by gauging the minuscule differences in the time at which the shock wave reaches each of its eight spraddled legs. Spaced apart, those legs serve as stereoscopic receptors. Take away the sensory input from one or two pairs of legs, or from all four legs along one side of the body, and the scorpion becomes confused. Disoriented…functionally blind.

Carnivorous Plants

  • Carnivorous plants have been driven to this extremity not by boldness and gluttony, but by shyness and starvation.
    • Meat-eating is the last resort of the shy, uncompetitive plant. Those carnivorous species have removed themselves evolutionarily from the ruthless competition of the thicket, the forest, from all those fecund and clamorous places where plants flourish in wild vigor and variety, battling each other upon nutritious substrata for position and water and sunlight. The Venus’s flytrap and those few others have taken a more gentle path.
  • They have developed strategies for collecting animal protein because, in the nutrient-poor habitats to which they are exiled, on soils so inhospitable that few other plants deign to invade, without some dietary supplement they could scarcely survive.

Sex Determination

  • Genetic Sex Determination (GSD) is just a contingent fact, not a logical or biological necessity.
  • Females have a greater need than males do to reach breeding size quickly, because their allotted span of breeding years is much shorter.

Street Trees

  • They not only add their small touch of shade and beauty to the starkest troughs of the city; they also cut winds, absorb noise, reduce glare, mitigate the extremes of temperature, and help appreciable to filter the city air. But how do they themselves fare? What sort of existence is it, living sealed off from the recycling flow of every soil nutrient, robbed of direct sunlight by skyscrapers, poisoned with road salt and poodle piss, deprived each autumn of even their own  leaf mulch, choking on those various elaborate toxins of automobile exhaust?


  • Reality isn’t everything. Truth and certainty are fine, as far as they go, but truth and certainty don’t supply all the nourishment that the soul of our species seems to require.
  • We soon learn that there is nothing mysterious or supernatural in the case, but that all proceeds from the usual propensity of mankind toward the marvelous, and that, though this inclination may at intervals receive a check from sense and learning, it can never be thoroughly extirpated from human nature. – David Hume


  • Malay Archipelago, Guam
  • The history of life on islands reflects – in a heightened and simplified way – the entire evolutionary process.
  • Luck’s a chance, but trouble’s sure. – A.E. Houseman
  • Speciation proceeds more rapidly under island conditions.
  • Hard to reach but still harder to escape, an island is generally the last stop. Once a species has landed, and settled in, and transformed itself in response to the local requirement, it has nowhere to go but extinct.
  • Saying no to the inevitable is one of the few precious ways our own species redeems itself from oblivion – or at least tries to. For mortal creatures, on a slow-dying planet, in the ocean of space, there’s really no other option.


  • It is no accident that these anomalies are all native to islands, where necessity and opportunity can be so exceptional.
  • In truth, humanity’s role in destroying island species only accelerates (grossly and cataclysmically, yes) what is otherwise in some sense inevitable.
    • Island species come to an end, almost invariably, without ever rejoining the mainstream of evolution.
  • But then in the long run we are all goners, and the Earth itself is just another doomed biological island. It’s a truism that death and entropy await everybody, everything.


  • Hearing is the dominant sense among whales, far more important than sight or smell, for the very good reason that sound travel much better through water than do either light or chemical signals.
  • It blesseth him that gives. – Shakespeare
  • An act of mercy can unite strong beings and helpless being with a bond like no other: by making the very life of the helpless being into a shining emblem of the strong being’s decency, wisdom, restraint. In some cases it might even be habit-forming.


  • The stability of an ecosystem is directly related to its complexity. The greater number of species coexisting in one community, and the greater the number of relationships linking different species, so much greater will be the natural resistance to change, perturbation, catastrophe. From diversity comes strengths; from variety, steadiness.
  • Most of all, one shouldn’t intervene in these natural cycles, on the ever-precarious basis of good intention and incomplete knowledge.
  • No ecosystem is invulnerable. And no ecosystem is immune to disturbances of the magnitude that humankind often inflicts.
  • A strong exploitation of very mature ecosystems, like tropical forests or coral reefs, may produce total collapse of a rich organization. In such stable biotopes, nature is not prepared for a step backward. Man has to be very careful in dealing with systems of high maturity. – Ramon Margalef


  • The history of life on our planet is not only intriguing but beautiful, a miracle that belongs to everyone.
  • The past is not dead, is not gone, cannot ever be completely escaped or erased or forgotten; the past is.


  • Insufficient genetic options equals insufficient adaptability.
  • Greedy human impulse: the impulse, not only to admire the embodiment of beauty, but to capture and possess it.


  • The Earth’s living matter, air, oceans, and land surface form a complex system which can be seen as a single organism and which has the capacity to keep our planet a fit place for life.


  • Scenery is what you look at. Landscape is where you live and die.
  • People go off alone into wilderness (often a desert wilderness) for some stretch of time, to strip away those aspects of misguided worldly concern – “the social busyness”.

Wild Geese

  • They embody liberty, grace, and devotion, combining those three contradictory virtues with a seamless elegance that leaves us shamed and inspired.
  • Geese’ digestive system is damnably inefficient. Unlike other grazing herbivores, geese have no capacity to digest cellulose, which accounts for a large portion of plant tissue and holds the cellular juices (rich in sugar and protein) locked within cell walls.
    • Much of the potential nutriment consumed passes straight through the bird without being utilized.
  • Choosing one mate for life and remaining (with rare exception) faithful, geese have no need for such fancy displays or flashy dimorphic costumes. They put their resources to other uses. They spurn narcissism and fickleness and that annual flirtatious skirmishing, in favor of economy and a dignified singlemindedness.

Posted: August 22, 2010 in Quotes

Fidelity, enforced and unto death, is the price you pay for the kind of love you never want to give up, for someone you want to hold forever, tighter and tighter, whether he’s close or far away, someone who becomes dearer to you the more you’ve sacrificed for his sake. This sacrificial relationship is precisely the one that exists in the Christian church between pain and absolution. It can survive outside the church, but it retains its ecclesiastical form. There can be no more violent, and beautiful, strategy than this for seizing time, for restoring eternity to life.

– Marguerite Duras

Song of Myself by Walt Whitman

Posted: August 22, 2010 in Poetry

[Full Text]

I think I could turn and live with animals, they’re so placid and self contain’d,

I stand and look at them long and long.

They do not sweat and whine about their condition,

They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,

They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,

Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things,

Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago,

Not one is respectable or unhappy over the earth.


I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars,

And the pismire [ant] is equally perfect, and a grain of sand, and the egg of the wren,

And the tree-toad is a chef-d’oeuvre for the highest,

And the running blackberry would adorn the parlors of heaven,

And the narrowest hinge in my hand puts to scorn all machinery,

And the cow crunching with depress’d head surpasses any statue,

And a mouse is miracle enough to stagger sextillions of infidels.