Looks like I won’t be able to attend the gathering this Sunday. I have to go to a memorial for a friend of the family. But just so you know I’ve done my homework and I feel like this is such an important chapter, I wanted to share this:
Chapter 21 starts out with “opening” of 德 Te: moral character, integrity, virtue or other possible translations.
I think it is no coincidence that this follows chapter 20 which has a very subjective point of view and ends with “feeding the mother”. I can see how the one thought flows into the other.
Te and Tao are clearly the two main concepts the TTC is trying to convey. This is the second time Te has been mentioned in the TTC, once before in Chapter 10. I think Te is a more difficult concept to grasp then Tao. I also think it is more subjective.
I don’t like any of the words generally used to translate Te (moral character, integrity, or virtue) because our general usage denotes a value judgment for all these words. And I don’t think the TTC really ever tries to lay down value judgments.
I’ve read one analysis of 德 or Te which struck a cord, (I’d like to use the hyperlink but the link is about 4 lines and it doesn’t seem to shorten it) it describes 德 as having three components; 1. a group of people walking slowly 2. the symbol for eye 3. the symbol for heart.
So I’m left more with a sense that Te has something to do with our subjective empathy within a larger group of people. So this helps make “feeding the mother” rather than “feeding from the mother” fit a lot better. It also speaks to our natural tendency to want to control the circumstances that we can observe with our own eyes. Where Tao tries to help us remember to let it be.
It is also interesting to note how similar the second part of this chapter is when you compare it to the second part of chapter 20, where the “I” talks about not being able to see clearly or distinctly.
The last part, is my favorite, and I think it refers back to the indistinct nature of Tao just previously described. For my own help I have written as: “We have taken its shape. How can we tell its shape? We are the shape of it”.
From word for word: “Its reputation never left because of the experience of the multitude.
Why do I know the multitude are of just this condition?
Because of this.”