Great Debate, Little Words

Reflections on Chapter 45 of the Tao Te Ching:

Fall Leaves

Fall Leaves

Great perfection
seems to be missing something,
Yet it is always useful.

Great fullness seems empty,
But it will never wear out.

Very straight things appear crooked.
Intelligence seems slow.
Great debates seems to lack words.

Movement overcomes cold.
Stillness overcomes heat.

Stay clear and calm
and the Universe will do the same.

We want so badly to fit everything into a box.

Yin Yang Symbol from

Yin Yang Symbol from

We want so badly for the good to be good and the bad to bad. We want things to be simple – to just be one way or the other and it’s never that. There’s always a grain of the opposite in things. If you look at the symbol of Tai Chi, what it is supposed to be is two interwoven teardrop shapes with a dot in the center of the opposite color. So the black teardrop has a white dot at its center and the white teardrop has a black dot. Many symbols leave this out but it’s important.

There is always a seed in the opposite of anything.

But it’s so difficult. Straight things are straight! They are not crooked! This is supposed to be right and not wrong and we fight for that. This chapter goes against how we are conditioned to think. We are taught that things are either right or wrong. We have school tests and the answers are either right or wrong. You pick the right person to marry or the wrong person to marry. At any given moment, it seems that things are either right or wrong.

But there is always the seed of the opposite in there. Always.

The Tao comes back to this time and time again. It comes back to this dichotomy.  Anytime that you think that you have it right, consider the opposite result.

Movement overcomes that quiet lack of action.

Motivation is exciting and passionate. It overcomes the inertia of doing nothing. Stillness overcomes the heat of activity. If you are really charged up about something, take a break. It’s all about balancing your life.  Diminish the extremes. Gain more balance.

Great debate, little words.

How many times have you had an interaction with somebody and they hardly said anything and you can appreciate that they selected their words very carefully? A fullness of words is empty. A lack of words is full. That same dynamic that keeps going through everything in the Tao Te Ching. Everything has that dynamic. It keeps weaving itself back in and around and back to the beginning.


What do you think of this? How have you noticed this dynamic in your own life? Please share with us in the comments.


  1. Loved your blog post. Trying to fit everything neatly into a nice little box. I find myself trying to do that with my son who has special needs because it would be so much easier to do things like everyone else. But he shows me time and time again what he wants and it’s the furthest thing possible than to be fit into a nice little box. It’s stretching me beyond what I’ve ever experienced in life. Thanks for this great reminder that nothing is right, and nothing is wrong.
    Suzanne McRae recently posted…Take a peek in my Etsy shop… my latest addition for Christmas!My Profile

    • Oh my. I can imagine how challenging that could be! I remember one time with my nephew when he was little, he was completely scared of grass. He could not walk across it no matter how much you would pay him to do it. It was a challenge, but somehow they moved through it. He is such a dear person and has taught us all so much. (and he outgrew his grass issues.)

  2. Well said. Always the seed of the opposite – always. Beware the quiet ones 😉 Thanks again for Tao Tuesdays!

  3. Thanks Amy. Yes, life seems easier when everything we are conditioned to think fits neatly into a box! It makes us feel certain and secure. However the Tao is always moving, changing and challenging how we think. Changing how we perceive life is the key to realizing that how we perceive and think about life is not necessarily the way things are!
    Sherry Marshall recently posted…A novel way to write a novel bookMy Profile

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