grand moof tarkin (moof) wrote,
grand moof tarkin

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The meaning of my back

I've been interested in Taoism for over ten years now; when I first read the Tao Te Ching in Boston in 1992, it made immediate sense to me - and even the obscure bits seemed in the same style in which I think. While I'm not fond of the dogmatic bits of Taoism - 'for every god Buddhism has, we'll have two!' - the core has always been very appealing.

One of the fun things about classical Chinese is that it has a myriad of interpretations possible; here's five translations of chapter 6, and here's five translations of chapter 71. Some of them vary pretty dramatically from each other. Why'd I choose those two chapters to put on my back? I like the visual form of the writing, that they're short but express a lot in that short amount of space, and that they're open to interpretation.

My favorite translation of chapter 6:

The valley spirit never dies.
It is called "the mysterious female."
The opening of the mysterious female
Is called "the root of Heaven and Earth."
Continuous, seeming to remain.
Use it without exertion.
To quote Thomas Cleary, "Commentators define the valley spirit as open awareness, the mysterious female as a combination of firm sense and flexible receptivity"; he goes on to say that the valley spirit "not dying" is referring to one's vision not being clouded by spurious attachments and meanings of things. "seeming to remain" indicates that you can't declare with certainty what and where it is. The last line indicates the dichotomy of effortlessness (the valley spirit's demesne) and intentional, directed effort. In addition to all this, there's also the pleasing female anatomy imagery, touching on a different sort of awareness and experience.

Chapter 71:

To know unconsciously is best.
To presume to know what you don't is sick.
Only by recognizing the sickness of sickness
is it possible not to be sick.
The sages' freedom from ills
was from recognizing the sickness of sickness,
so they didn't suffer from sickness.
This one is much more self-explanatory. It stresses the importance of unforced thought, and the problems that arise when you push things beyond where you understand - and won't admit to it. Admitting your limitations lets you be able to surpass them.

The only problem is that right now the tattoo is damn itchy (and I have to whap myself with a stick to get it to itch less), my back is threatening to break out, and my right tragus seems unhappy. Grrr. I bet it's hormones.

This quiz proves it: I really am sweet, innocent, virginal and pure!

I scored
on the classic 400 Point Purity Test!
Take the test here!

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