All the world knows there is beauty;
therefore, there is also ugliness.
All the world knows there is competence;
therefore, there is also incompetence.

One and zero generate each other,
difficult and easy complement each other,
long and short are relative to each other,
high-level and low-level complete each other,
signal and noise fill the channel together,
head and tail follow in sequence
— all these, their essential natures.

Therefore, the Consultant
takes action without force,
and speaks without voice.

The ten thousand programs —
he writes the code, but does not commission it;
he debugs the program, but does not rely on it;
he completes the project, but does not maintain it.

Well, it is only because he does not maintain it
that his code will live on forever.

There’s really not much more to say here. I should mention, for readers at this early stage, that it is an essential goal of the entire exercise to stay as close to the original, both in spirit and in letter, as is possible, given the nature of the mistranslation.

Thus, although the verses above refer to modern elements of computer science, there is a clear and obvious line-for-line correspondence with the text of the original Dao De Jing.


chapter notes:

This chapter lends itself wonderfully well to misappropriation. The sense of the last lines is reversed from the original — generally, “living on forever” is supposed to be a good thing.