The Sage’s Tao Te Ching, a New Interpretation
Ancient Advice for the Second Half of Life
by William Martin
Lao Tzu, the teacher of the venerable sage Confucius, is thought to have written only 5,000 words in his lifetime, most of them in his “Tao Te Ching,” a group of 81 short, poetic chapters that have enriched the world with wisdom since their writing over 2,500 years ago. Believing that Lao Tzu’s image of the “sage” is an essential model for a contemporary journey into wisdom and a deeper, more authentic way of life for people in the second half of life, William Martin has updated his original translation of this classic work of practical philosophy. This new version focuses on the later years of life and the thoughts, attitudes, and characteristics that mark the elder sage.
Martin sees the words of Lao Tzu as a kind of guide book for what he calls the hero’s journey of our time, one that requires “learning to see in the darkness and not be afraid.” One who has undertaken this journey can then over words of wisdom that will spark compassion, empathy, and openness to the needs of all who see. The sage asks: “Who will speak this word if not those who have tried the other ways and found them inadequate, those who are finally willing and able to let go of useless desires and fears, to live and say the truth with the force and compassion necessary for these times? Who will speak as sages to a world that needs their voice, if not you and I?”
In a culture that trivializes its elders and glorifies youth, Martin is sounding the call for the arising of a critical mass of older people, dedicated to recapturing the traditional role of elder. “When they do,” he writes, “a revolution will occur that will help make the coming age not the Information Age, as we have been led to believe, but the Age of Wisdom.”
William Martin has been a student of the Tao for 25 years and is the author of numerous Tao-inspired books. He is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, and Western Theological Seminary and has worked as a research scientist for the Department of the Navy, as a clergyman, and as a college instructor. He conducts workshops and seminars at the Still Point, a center for Taoist-Zen practice in Chico, California.