When I attended a tribute to Ursula Le Guin a few weeks ago I was surprised to learn she had translated Lao Tzu's classic the Tao Te Ching. I promptly bought a copy. Le Guin did not know Chinese, but she worked from a copy belonging to her father, an 1898 edition that contained the Chinese text, a transliteration, and a translation. As she says in her notes, this was like having a Rosetta Stone.
Le Guin started the project in her twenties and worked on it over many years, always adding to her knowledge and eventually connecting with Chinese scholar Dr. J. P. Seaton of the University of North Carolina, who was impressed with her work and shared his expertise. Clearly it was a task driven by determination and will, and love for the text itself.
I can't imagine attempting a translation of a text in a language I did not know, let alone one so easy to misunderstand. So far I like her version very much. It's approachable in a way others I've tried haven't been because, I think, she brings a poet's voice to it. Of course the Tao Te Ching is always difficult—sometimes incomprehensible. But worth the effort.
It's been good to have something to turn to that connects with both mind and soul; it's been a hard week. Reading this morning I thought of the Tao symbol, that circle half-white and half-black, each containing the seed of the other. To the ancient Chinese the dark represented feminine energy and the light masculine, but there are many meanings ascribed to it. I found an image on Google and planted it at the bottom of my computer screen. It reminds me that no matter how dark the world seems, there is always a seed of light within the darkness. We just have to feed it.