63 – the Ascii code for ‘?’. Apt.
The sage does not attempt anything very big,
And thus achieves greatness.
This sums up teaching, doesn’t it? What we do is not particularly revolutionary (in fact, for a revolutionary, what teachers do is downright anti-revolutionary) and yet we shape people. Whether you’re a state school teacher trudging along the path of the national curriculum or a flamboyant language teacher pirouetting in a Laotian language centre, you have the capacity to leave a mark on the people in front/to the side/behind/all around you. That’s mighty scary, Jethro.
Lao’s advice is exquisite (but opaque). It boils down to a stitch in time saves nine. He phrases it more poetically: So, a wise soul, by never dealing with great things/gets great things done. The hardest jobs in the world start out easy; the great affairs of the world start small. These are words of wisdom that we can bear in mind when teaching our students, but are also words of wisdom that, perhaps, need to be borne in mind when people are designing teacher training courses. And it also offers us an insight into the mundanity of wu wei. We are reminded that if we take action early enough, we will never have to deal with the big things. If only I could afford a taoist approach to DIY, my life would be so much easier.