This chapter is a dance between Tao and Te – Tao as the source of all things, and Te as the life force that sustains all things. Many chapters focus on one or the other, so it is enlightening to see here the interplay between the two fundamental concepts of the Tao Te Ching. It is a chapter that delights the ear in the original Chinese because you can hear the rhythm and cadence. It sounds like a dance!
Tao gives birth to all things
Te nurtures all things
Matter forms all things
Environment completes all things
This is a brief story of creation. Tao manifests as the universe through the creative agency of Te. What is undifferentiated and unlimited potential in the infinite emptiness of Tao springs forth and divides into what the Tao Te Ching calls the ten thousand things. It is like light shining through a prism and making rainbows on the wall.
I love prisms, by the way, and recently gave one to my grandson. We had so much fun finding sun coming through windows to create dancing rainbows on walls, floors, curtains, and our hands. But I digress....
Thus the ten thousand things revere Tao and honor Te
Not because it is commanded of them
But because it is their true nature to do so
I love this passage because it reflects the divine relationship between the creative energy and the created. The Ten Commandments demand honor of father and mother, but here the honor is a natural inherent response, requiring no effort.
Likewise, it is Te’s nature to nourish and sustain all things as they move through the life cycle.
Thus Tao gives birth to all things
As Te nurtures them
Raises and nourishes them
Protects and matures them
Sustains and shelters them
This passage reminds me of Psalm 91:4. “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge.” So beautiful.
The last four lines are repeated in other chapters. This last section reminds me of Kahlil Gibran’s passage about children.
Giving birth yet not possessing
Acting yet not claiming credit
Rearing yet not controlling
This is called profound Virtue (Te)
To me this chapter reflects the rhythm of breathing, the exchange between the inhale and the exhale. As we breathe, we dance our own creation, connecting ourselves as individuals to the universal energy that gives us all life.