Daodejing 71


To know your ignorance
is most upright. [1]
Not knowing but pretending
to know is illness. [2]

Just consider shortcomings
only as shortcomings:
thus, no shortcomings.
The Sage has no shortcomings
because he considers
shortcomings as shortcomings:
hence, no shortcomings.

*Translation by LU Wenlong & Keith Wayne Brown, ©2013.

[1] The character is that one for “up”, so highest or best is intimated. This is another word sometimes translated as “wisdom.” Here, our notion of “wise” rooted in the original term for vision does make sense. Knowing you are ignorant, as Socrates points out, is the beginning of being wise or able to see. Ignorance itself as an English term means “not knowing where to start.” Both Laozi and Socrates remind us to start with admitting we do not know everything. This would mean to start “up above” your own self, to see where you can go on the Way.

[2] This could be translated as “foolish.” Here, the fool would be the sick person who talks and acts as though he is moving up and about while all the time laying down in the sickbed of his own ignorance. 



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