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The wise ones of old had subtle wisdom and depth of understanding,

So profound that they could not be understood.

And because they could not be understood,

Perforce must they be so described:

Cautious, like crossing a wintry stream,

Irresolute, like one fearing danger all around,

Grave, like one acting as guest,

Self-effacing, like ice beginning to melt,

Genuine, like a piece of undressed wood,

Open-minded, like a valley,

And mixing freely, like murky water.

Who can find repose in a muddy world?

By lying still, it becomes clear.

Who can maintain his calm for long?

By activity, it comes back to life.

He who embraces this Tao

Guards against being over-full.

Because he guards against being over-full,

He is beyond wearing out and renewal.


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