In order to contain something, let it expand first.
In order to weaken something, let it strengthen first.
In order to eliminate something, let it flourish first.
In order to take away something, let it be accessible first.
This is called wisdom of obscurity.
The weak and the tender outlast the hard and the strong.
Fish should not leave deep waters,
And a country’s weapons should not be displayed.
As I Understand It:
In our world, where competition and being first is given a high priority, the teachings in thirty-sixth chapter stir misgivings. The teachings tell us that obscure, tender, and subtle things are stronger in the long run: that we must experience humility to appreciate the powerful: that we should be bighearted to allow others to prosper.
It may sound strange to children if we, as parents, ask them not to compete but rather to retreat into the background or teach them to be humble and to develop and toughen their inner selves.
Lao Tzu says that the best things in life are hidden. The obscure things may be so called “weak” but ultimately they win through. We are, however, too timid to begin to follow this lesson. If we do, he says, a gentle and peaceful world will emerge. Our strength will reflect not in weapons of war but in the power of peace.
As we live our lives voicing our thoughts, feeling our emotions and doing things we do let’s not draw attention to ourselves. Let others flaunt and flourish if they want by advertising their assets and being popular.
Learn from the fish: stay in deep waters. If you swim close to the surface the net will get you. If you show off your weapons, the enemy will attack.
The Way of Lao Tzu, tr. Wing-Tsit Chan, The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc. 1963.
Dyer, Wayne W., Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of Tao. Hay House, Inc. 2007.