Study Guide

Tao Te Ching Chapter 5

By Lao Tzu

Chapter 5

  • Heaven and Earth are totally unbiased, says the TTC.
  • Makes sense, right? If a meteor slams into the Earth, it doesn't exactly care who or what it slams into. You could be super-nice or super-mean, and you still might get squished.
  • The sages take a cue from the Heaven and Earth and also think of people without bias.
  • In a famous line, the TTC tells us that the sages "regard people as straw dogs" (5.4).
  • Chinese history bomb: Back in the day, the Chinese used dog figurines made of straw in rituals. After the rituals, they ditched the straw dogs because they had no more meaning.
  • So the cynical way to interpret this line of the TTC is that people don't matter.
  • But another way of looking at it, which seems more in line with everything else, is that we should recognize that we only inhabit our physical bodies for a little while before everything we're made of goes on to become something else.
  • We're all just a part of the Tao, man!
  • Next, we're told that the space between Heaven and Earth is like a bellows, which is a thing blacksmiths used to use to blow air into their fires.
  • So even though the space between Heaven and Earth might look empty, it's always fanning the flames of creation.
  • This chapter also stresses the idea that too many words cause failure.
  • Nothing compares to silence.
  • Could this mean that talking too much doesn't allow us to recognize the Tao?

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