Saturdao 3

Dao De Jing, verse 2a

James Legge (1891):
All in the world know the beauty of the beautiful, and in doing this they have (the idea of) what ugliness is; they all know the skill of the skilful, and in doing this they have (the idea of) what the want of skill is.
So it is that existence and non-existence give birth the one to (the idea of) the other; that difficulty and ease produce the one (the idea of) the other; that length and shortness fashion out the one the figure of the other; that (the ideas of) height and lowness arise from the contrast of the one with the other; that the musical notes and tones become harmonious through the relation of one with another; and that being before and behind give the idea of one following another.
Archie Bahm (1958):
It is because we single out something and treat it as distinct from other things that we get the idea of its opposite. Beauty, for example, once distinguished, suggests its opposite, ugliness.
And goodness, when we think of it, is naturally opposed to badness.
In fact, all distinctions naturally appear as opposites. And opposites get their meaning from each other and find their completion only through each other. The meaning of “is” and “is not” arise from our distinguishing between them.
Likewise, “difficult and easy,” “long and short,” “high and low,” “loud and soft,” “before and after” – all derive their meanings from each other.
Frank MacHoven (1962):
Whenever the most beautiful is perceived ugliness arises, the least beautiful. Whenever good is perceived evil exists, its natural opposite.
Thus, perception involves opposites: reality and fantasy are opposing thoughts; difficult and simple oppose in degree; long and short oppose in distance; high and low oppose in height; shrill and deep oppose in tone; before and after oppose in sequence.
D.C. Lau (1963)
The whole world recognizes the beautiful as the beautiful, yet this is only the ugly;
the whole world recognizes the good as the good, yet this is only the bad.
Thus Something and Nothing produce each other;
The difficult and the easy complement each other;
The long and the short off-set each other;
The high and the low incline towards each other;
Note and sound harmonize with each other;
Before and after follow each other.
Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English (1972):
Under heaven all can see beauty as beauty only because there is ugliness.
All can know good as good only because there is evil.
Therefore having and not having arise together.
Difficult and easy complement each other.
Long and short contrast each other;
High and low rest upon each other;
Voice and sound harmonize each other;
Front and back follow one another.
Stan Rosenthal (1984):
"Letting Go of Comparisons"
We cannot know the Tao itself,
nor see its qualities direct,
but only see by differentiation,
that which it manifests.
Thus, that which is seen as beautiful
is beautiful compared with that
which is seen as lacking beauty;
an action considered skilled
is so considered in comparison
with another, which seems unskilled.
That which a person knows he has
is known to him by that which he does not have,
and that which he considers difficult
seems so because of that which he can do with ease.
One thing seems long by comparison with that which is, comparatively, short.
One thing is high because another thing is low;
only when sound ceases is quietness known,
and that which leads
is seen to lead only by being followed.
Jacob Trapp (1987):
It is man’s limitation to know
Beauty in contrast to ugliness,
Goodness in contrast to evil,
Being in contrast to non-being.
Men think in terms of opposites:
The difficult or the easy, in doing;
Short or long, in measurement;
High or low, in position or tone;
Earlier or later, in time.
Stephen Mitchell (1988):
When people see some things as beautiful,
other things become ugly.
When people see some things as good,
other things become bad.
Being and non-being create each other.
Difficult and easy support each other.
Long and short define each other.
High and low depend on each other.
Before and after follow each other.
Victor Mair (1990):
When all under heaven know beauty as beauty, already there is ugliness;
When everyone knows goodness, this accounts for badness.
Being and nonbeing give birth to each other,
Difficult and easy complete each other,
Long and short form each other,
High and low fulfill each other,
Tone and voice harmonize with each other,
Front and back follow each other –
it is ever thus.
Michael LaFargue (1992):
When everyone in the world recognizes the elegant as elegant...
then ugliness has just appeared.
When all recognize goodness as good...
then the not-good has just appeared.
'Being' and 'nothing' give birth one to the other
'the difficult' and 'the easy' give full shape to one another
'what excels' and 'what falls short' form one another
'the noble' and 'the lowly' give content to one another
the back and the front follow one another.
Peter Merel (1995):
When beauty is abstracted
Then ugliness has been implied;
When good is abstracted
Then evil has been implied.
So alive and dead are abstracted from nature,
Difficult and easy abstracted from progress,
Long and short abstracted from contrast,
High and low abstracted from depth,
Song and speech abstracted from melody,
After and before abstracted from sequence.
GNL 4.1
When beauty is discovered

Then ugliness emerges;

When good is discovered

Then evil emerges.
So alive and dead are distinguished from nature,

Difficult and easy from progress,

Long and short from contrast,

High and low from depth,

Song and speech from melody,

After and before from sequence.
Ursula LeGuin (1997):
“Soul food”
Everybody on earth knowing
that beauty is beautiful
makes ugliness.
Everybody knowing
that goodness is good
makes wickedness.
For being and nonbeing
arise together;
hard and easy
complete each other;
long and short
shape each other; high and low
depend on each other;
note and voice
make the music together;
before and after
follow each other.
Ron Hogan (2002):
If something looks beautiful to you,
something else must be ugly.
If something seems good,
something else must seem bad.
You can't have
something without nothing.
If no job is difficult,
then no job is easy.
Some things are up high
because other things are down low.
You know you're listening to music
because it doesn't sound like noise.
All that came first,
so this must be next.
Roger T. Ames and David L. Hall (2003):
As soon as everyone in the world knows that the beautiful are beautiful,
There is already ugliness.
As soon as everyone knows the able,
There is ineptness.
Determinacy (you) and indeterminacy (wu) give rise to each other,
Difficult and easy complement each other,
Long and short set each other off,
High and low complete each other,
Refined notes and raw sounds harmonize (he) with each other,
And before and after lend sequence to each other –
This is really how it all works.
Yasuhiko Genku Kimura (2004)
When the world recognizes beauty as beauty, ugliness arises.
When the world recognizes good as good, evil arises.
Being and non-being create each other.
Difficult and easy define each other.
Long and short form each other.
High and low support each other.
Tone and voice accompany each other.
Before and after follow each other.
Stephen Addiss and Stanley Lombardo (2007):
Recognize beauty and ugliness is born.
Recognize good and evil is born.
Is and Isn’t produce each other.
Hard depends on easy,
Long is tested by short,
High is determined by low,
Sound is harmonized by voice,
After is followed by before.

Remember this day. We shall not see such similarity of translation again. The point here in the first half of verse 2 is comparatively simple and straightforward: not a whole lot for translators to disagree about. Even Bahm is pretty much in line on this one. The repetition of such similarity does drive home a point, reminding me that the symbol of Daoism is the yin-yang: the black and the white offsetting each other, each defining the space of the other, just as this verse says.

Differentiation defines -- not always through opposition. Rather than opposing, sometimes the terms of the pair "complement" or "rest upon", or "complete," or "harmonize with," or "follow," or "lend sequence to," or are "tested by," or "shape" each other.

The cumulative effect also, eventually, is to recommend the irreality of all judgments. We are told that, “high is determined by low,” which teaches us that both high and low are unreal, which teaches us that we could drop all this judging of things as high or as low if we wanted to.

So what's up with the parentheses in the Legge? Which is it? Do existence and nonexistence give birth to one another, or is it only that the idea of the one gives birth to the idea of of the other? Ah, grasshopper. Same thing.

At the end of this section, we read, “before and after follow each other” (LeGuin) or a very similar variation such as “After is followed by before” (Addis, Lombardo), or, venturing just a bit afield, “Before and after oppose in sequence” (MacHovec). All this creates a context within which I appreciate Hogan’s smart-ass lip: “All that came first, so this must be next.”
* * *
Next: Saturdao 4.
Previous: Saturdao 2.
Beginning: Saturdao 1.

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