Home > Commentaries on TTC > In a group of 23 (or more) randomly chosen people, the probability is more than 50% that some pair of them will have the same birthday.

In a group of 23 (or more) randomly chosen people, the probability is more than 50% that some pair of them will have the same birthday.

To talk little is natural;

High winds do not last all morning.

Heavy rain does not last all day.

Proof positive that Lao’s wanderings never got him as far as Manchester in the windy, wet north west of England.

A day without rain!!!

This week, I am going to favour Ms Leguin’s translation. Largely because it is more urbane and less spiritual and that’s just how I’m feeling this morning. Bear with me while I quote:

The people who work with Tao

are Tao people,

they belong to the Way.

People who work with power

belong to power.

What are we being told? Well, it’s pretty clear, I think. We are being told that people’s actions really define them. How do we know if someone’s a taoist? The clue is in how they lead their lives. If they act as a taoist, then they are taoists and further the ends of tao. Now I see this almost as serendipitous. I have been spouting off at Critical Mass and MarxistElf (in a most un taolike fashion) about dogme and critical dogme. This chapter of the TTC seems to address just those points which have recently been made.

People who work with power/belong to power. Notice the choice of words there. The relationship isn’t equal. If you work with the power structures, you become their possession. When you serve a greater interest, you are not equals. How many teachers are working with power? When an individual, as has recently been mentioned on Critical Mass, decides to do a listening on Barbie, are they working with power? When we tell ourselves and others that our job is only to teach language (this language that is often seen as a prerequisite to progress) and is not a political job are we working with power? I think we are. And , as such, we belong to power and are serving its interests. That is, we are the dominated party and we are serving the interests of those forces in our society that maintain this unequal power relationship. Bloody marvellous!

People who work with loss

belong to what’s lost.

An interesting argument that also speaks to me (at least) about teaching. Many teachers (he wrote rather unscientifically) address the deficiencies of their students. By focussing on what their students can’t do, the TTC tells us that these teachers belong to what is lost. The exhortation would seem to be to look at what people can do and/or do do! Why? Because when we see the world as it is (not as how it isn’t), we are able to plot our own path, our own Way.

In short, Lao Tse is telling us to be critical. Look for the real purpose in what we are doing and what others do to us. The listening on Barbie – is it only there to help students learn how to talk about the role of women’s aspirations in the modern industrialised world? Is it really “a listening”? What is a “listening”? Is it an activity that helps people to develop their “listening skills”? How does the coursebook do that? Should the coursebook be doing that? Or should the coursebook just give people the resources they need to teach the skills themselves? If it’s up to the teacher, how does one teach listening? Can one teach listening? If one can, is the listening about Barbie going to be the best of all possible resources? How useful can a pre-recorded bit of speech be? Are listening skills honed by listening to disembodied voices over which they have no control or are they honed by interacting with live interlocutors? I could go on and on and on and on and on, but LT reminds me “If heaven and earth don’t go on and on/certainly people don’t need to“.

One more word and I'll break your fingers...

To conclude: LT wraps up Section 23  by telling us, “He [sic] who does not trust enough/Will not be trusted.” Originally, I had interpreted this as telling the teacher to trust in the capacity of the students to learn; rather than putting all their faith in a syllabus, a curriculum, a scheme of work, a lesson plan, a coursebook, I saw this little couplet as saying, “Screw that! Trust in whatever the learner brings to you as being all that they need in order to learn.” Now I’m not so sure.

Now I like the idea that Lao is advising us not to trust too much. And if we go about life without trusting (that is questioning the motivation of everyone and everything), we in turn will not be trusted (that is, will be questioned about our motivation too). Now that, brothers and sisters, would be the kind of world that I think could be fun to live in.

Categories: Commentaries on TTC
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