Thursday, January 25, 2018

Ursula K. Le Guin ~ and Lao Tzu

My favorite part of Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching is Chapter 11.  I have several translations of the  book and would hand them out to students to read aloud in my "Religions of the World" class at Chattanooga State.  I wanted them to compare the different translators, but mostly I wanted them to think about this mind-expanding idea.  Probably my favorite translation is Ursula K. Le Guin's:
The uses of not

Thirty spokes
meet in the hub.
Where the wheel isn't
is where it's useful.

Hollowed out,
clay makes a pot.
Where the pot's not
is where it's useful.

Cut doors and windows
to make a room.
Where the room isn't,
there's room for you.

So the profit in what is
is in the use of what isn't.
Le Guin added her comment:  "One of the things I love about Lao Tzu is he is so funny.  He's explaining a profound and difficult truth here, one of those counter-intuitive truths that, when the mind can accept them, suddenly double the size of the universe.  He goes about it with this deadpan simplicity, talking about pots."

When her book Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching : A Book About the Way and the Power of the Way was published in 1997, Ursula Le Guin had studied the Tao Te Ching for over 40 years. She worked with Chinese scholars to develop a version that lets the ancient text speak in a fresh way to modern people, while remaining faithful to its poetic beauty.

Ursula Le Guin died on January 22, 2018.  To give you an idea of what she was like, I found The Night Ursula K. Le Guin Pranked the Patriarchy posted today by HuffPost.  Enjoy!


Helen's Book Blog said...

I have never read a Le Guin book, but feel like she has been in my life all along. That probably sounds strange and I can't quite explain it.

Bonnie Jacobs said...

Most of her books, of course, are somewhere between fantasy and science fiction. This nonfiction is not what most people think about when discussing her books. Another favorite of mine is also nonfiction. The Altered I is ABOUT her, but also with parts of it BY her. Actually, it's about a writers workshop she led. You can read about it on my blog, naturally.