The valley spirit does not die.
She is called the Mysterious Female.
Her gate is called the Connection
between Heaven and Earth.
Like down, or cotton—soft, soft—
yet strong and lasting as silken floss
Spinning, spinning, thin and long,
she continues on and on.
Use her power, and your work
Will not be hard.
— Tao Te Ching, chapter 6
(translation: Benjamin Hoff)
Late last year I found out that the author of The Tao of Pooh had a new translation of the Tao Te Ching coming out. The unique selling point of this one is that he is trying to shorten the game of Telephone that any ancient text is subject to, by going back to the oldest versions he could find and looking into how the language had shifted over time. I hadn’t ever read the Tao Te Ching and this seemed like a good one to try, so I pre-ordered it, and promptly forgot about it.
This week, it showed up on my doorstep. A present from past me! Wednesday evening, I hit the bong and sat down with the book, intending to quietly read the whole text through with minimal reference to Hoff’s copious endnotes notes explaining both his decisions as a translator and something of what the short, oblique sentences are aiming at. But then I came to this chapter and, well, I have read a lot of books on magic, and I can tell when an author is saying “here is a helpful spirit associated with this work, you should chat with her”, and I am pretty sure that is one of those times. I got a brief flash of this image, and spent a couple hours with Illustrator instead of reading the rest of the Tao Te Ching.