When the highest type of men hear Tao, they diligently practice it.
When the average type of men hear Tao, they half believe in it.
When the lowest type of men hear Tao, they roar with ridicule at it.
If they did not ridicule it, it would not be Tao.
Therefore there are established sayings on this:
The Tao that is bright appears dark,
the Tao which goes forward appears to retreat,
the easy way seems hard,
the great power appears weak,
the great purity appears tarnished.
the great clarity seems obscure,
the great art seems unsophisticated,
the great love seems indifferent,
the great wisdom seems childish.
The Tao is hidden and nameless;
the Tao alone nourishes and brings everything to fulfillment.
As I Understand It:
When a great scholar understands the wisdom of Tao she diligently applies it in her daily life. Earlier in her life she may have superficially read about it or still earlier even ridiculed it but the wisdom would not be great if she had not ridiculed it! Great wisdom has that kind of effect on fools!
Taoist teachings are paradoxical. What appears dark, tarnished, obscure and unsophisticated from our point of view is, from sage’s point of view, bright, pure, powerful and artistic. Like infants everything fascinates the sage as if she sees the world for the first time. Nothing is insignificant.
Tao can neither be seen nor named but when it is experienced, we begin to see essential goodness in everything and love in everyone. We may not need the wisdom of Tao in times of fun and frolic but during times of difficulty, darkness and death it’s power illumines our inner world and gives us peace. With that inner peace our life flows like the ceaseless flow of the Tao.
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.