Tao Te Ching Chapter 9

Holding a cup and overfilling it
Cannot be as good as stopping short
Pounding a blade and sharpening it
Cannot be kept for long

Gold and jade fill up the room
No one is able to protect them
Wealth and position bring arrogance
And leave disasters upon oneself

When achievement is completed,
fame is attained,
Withdraw oneself

This is the Tao of Heaven

Derek Lin, Translator

Grabbing and stuffing?
there is no end to it

Sharpen a blade too much
and its edge will soon be lost

Fill a house with gold and jade
and no one can protect it

Puff yourself with honor and pride
and no one can save you from a fall

Complete the task at hand
Be selfless in your actions
This is the way of Heaven
This is the way to Heaven

Jonathan Star, Translator

Materialism is ingrained deeply into perception.  Livelihood becomes equated with acquisition, and the practice of meeting our basic material needs with simple, daily, graceful effort becomes infused with egocentric wants and fears. We become manic, fueled by anxiety, driven by desires and feelings of lack. Daily work is never done, we never withdraw from seeking achievement and fame. We chase it all our lives and measure ourselves accordingly. Our measure becomes more important than our being, and so we cease being and become merely a measure. We lose the freedom of humble being, and become enslaved by pride in our measure.

It’s not about achieving and fame and THEN, years later, quietly withdrawing. It’s about being done with achieving and fame, done chasing them, done being chased by them… today.


  Oh, I got plenty of nothing, and nothing`s plenty for me…

Lock on the door…folks with plenty of plenty
they got a lock on the door
Afraid somebody`s gonna rob them
While they’re out making more…

I got no lock on the door,
that`s no way to be,
they can steal the rug from the floor,
that`s OK with me.

`Cause the things that I prize,
Like the stars in the skies,
Are all free. All free!

I got my gal, got my song,
got heaven the whole day long…
Got my gal, got my Lord, got my song,
I got the sun, got the moon, got the deep blue sea.

Oh, I got plenty of nothing, and nothing`s plenty for me…

The folks with plenty of plenty,
Got to pray all the day.
Seems with plenty you sure got to worry
How to keep the devil away, away.

I ain`t fretting about hell,
never worry when my time will arrive,
never worry long as I`m well,
Never one to strive
to be good, to be bad…
What the hell, I’m glad I’m alive!

Oh, I got plenty of nothing,
And nothing`s plenty for me. Wear a Bucket

I got my gal, got my song,
Got heaven the whole day long!

No use complaining,
I got my gal,
I got my (Tao),
I got my song!
Got heaven the whole day long!

 Paraphrase of “I Got Plenty of Nothin’ ” byDuBose Heyward

4 Responses to Tao Te Ching Chapter 9

  1. Jonathan Star. One of my favorites, for sure! His copy of the Tao Te Ching is partly responsible for my entire blog actually existing.

    I have been thinking about what you said a lot these last few days (before reading your post) so this is very timely. My husband and I are planning out where we will live in a few years. Right now, my daughter is still in school so we want to stay put but once she is done with school we want to move to a warmer spot.

    So we are always working on downsizing. We live in a tiny house already so whenever I bring something into the house I think to myself that I need to get busy bringing stuff OUT. Simplify. As the years go by, I care less and less about bringing in more stuff. I hardly ever even shop anymore.

    I love that poem. Yes, the stars are what is valuable. For sure. Speaking of, I must go and sit out on my deck this morning and listen to the birds instead of typing on this computer. Have a great week, Bob.

    bobgriffith says:
  2. Hi Amy,

    Downsizing and simplifying felt good when we did it in 2009. We moved, too, when the time came, and we still feel appreciative of how “lucky” we were to land where we have. We exercised the usual amount of planning and investigation, drove to a lot of places and did what we could to identify what we wanted, and where – yet in the end it came down to going with the flow, trusting, and then blooming where we found ourselves planted.

    There’s a lot of serendipitous synergy on the path which takes us to the place and condition we really want so long as we stay willing to flow with the process rather than control it. At least that was our experience. When you ride the river into a new place it’s really cool to look and see the blessings there. It’s easy to see what’s missing anywhere from the mind’s projected perspective. Lenore (my wife) and I learned to see what is present and so our days slowly fill with new wonders and awareness of what we have here.

    Our “measure” in the context of the above post is quite humble. We live comfortably in a snug home and meet our basic needs. Our wealth is certainly not measured in terms of money. In that light our circumstances would alarm, if not horrify, most industrious citizens working diligently toward financial security.

    My wife and I chose to live a certain way many years ago. Our priority was right livelihood rather than devotion to the ways and means of acquisition. We worked and served others, took time for ourselves to be together and grow in awareness of what life is all about really, and earned our daily bread and satisfactions. And that was it. No jewels, no treasure, no lock on the door. Even now times come when we are invited to consider how precarious our condition is in terms of money, but we’ve learned to quickly decline that particular invitation and move on. We walked our Tao the best we knew how and we chose correctly for us.

    The freedom of humble being is truly immeasurable. It ain’t perfect – yet – but “what the hell, we’re just glad to be alive!” It’s good, being two who are One, flowing the best we can, knowing that sufficient unto the day are the evils thereof, meeting them early, dispensing with them as they appear, and moving out into the treasures of the day.

    One last thing about writing. It’s reflected in the song above. When you write, don’t worry or fret about being good or bad, don’t strive. Just be glad you’re writing, and being alive. When the day’s work is done, it’s done. Let the writing be what it is, release it, let it go where it will and do what it would, and don’t fear what anyone might think. Remember, “what somebody else thinks of me (or my writing) is none of my business.”

    Oh, and be on the lookout for what I call “collateral enrichment.” To paraphrase John Lennon, collateral enrichment is what happens while you’re writing with other plans in mind…

    Carry on! Our love to you and yours, Amy.

  3. Oh Bob,

    Your life sounds wonderful. Tell Lenore I said hello to her. I see a movement afoot. The “tiny house” movement is a piece of that. Sustainability is a piece of that. We crave naturalness because we have drifted so far from it in our urban cultures. Congratulations on choosing consciously how you want to live. That is wonderful.

    • bobgriffith says:

      Thanks, Amy. Our life is pretty wonderful. But not without its challenges, too. We’ve managed, for the most part, to overcome that sense that the nattering muzzle of materialism’s voice is crouched in the weeds and ready to pounce on us with judgments of failure to acquire. It comes up once in awhile. Then we remind ourselves we made the choices, accept responsibility for the manifested consequences, and together count all the blessings and graces of those manifested consequences. We never can tally them all up. Before we get anywhere near the end of that list we are good with it all over again.

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