天之視而精 四璧而知請 壤土而與生 Contemplate the heavens, then devote yourself to contemplating the world around you, then acknowledge the nature of the bounty of the earth, then join with life. 能若夫風與波乎 唯其所欲適 Can you be like wind and waves whose only desire is to become one?
故子而代其父 Now contemplate a son who succeeds his father. 曰義也 Let's call him a dutiful son. 臣而代其君 曰篡也 And a vassal who succeeds his lord, let's call him a usurper. 篡何能歌 How can a usurper be praised? 武王是也 King Wu was one.
故曰庸能去辯與巧 而還與眾人同道 Now ask yourself how we can avoid sophistry and still prove that we share the same principles as our fellow human beings.
故曰思索精者明益衰 德行修者王道狹 臥名利者寫生危 Now my answer is that devotion to logical reasoning explains a descent into madness, and that cultivation of moral conduct pays homage to a principle of oppression, and that pursuit of fame and fortune is characterized by an abundance of fear and anxiety. 知周於六合之內者吾知生之有為阻也 Pointing out these cycles of subjectivity is just my way of acknowledging their reality within each and every one of us.
持而滿之乃其殆也 名滿於天下不若其已也 名進而身退天之道也 And finally, contemplate the danger of making decisions based on ambition, and that it's best to avoid a reputation as an ambitious social climber, and that a reputation for stepping up when needed, then stepping down, reflects a universal principle that plays out in the heavens.
滿盛之國不可以仕任 You should never serve the government of an overly ambitious state. 滿盛之家不可以嫁子 You should never marry into an overly ambitious family. 驕倨傲暴之人不可與交 You should never fall in with proud, arrogant, ruthless, violent people.
I started looking at this passage because I was struck by how close it is in theme and vocabulary to Daodejing chapter 9.
King Wu was the great hero who overthrew the last corrupt king of the Shang. The argument that follows seems to justify Wu's revolution as it warns us of the dangers of personal ambition, counsels us to avoid tyrants if possible, and subtly encourages us, like Wu, to stand up to them when necessary.
The header image is an illustration of a qiqi, a vessel balanced to be upright when empty, but to empty suddenly when full.