The Tao of Community Organizing

I heard this chapter of the Tao Te Ching today at church and it really spoke to me as an organizer of nonprofit events and community initiatives. I wanted to share.

There are important tips here: work a huge task one bit at a time as it comes, frontload and work hard out of the gate to take pressure off the always-stressful last stages, expect to sacrifice and be inconvenienced — the work is not worth doing because it is easy or fun.

Be ethical. Be ambitious, but don’t seek glory.  Seek something outside yourself and within others.

Do not expect it will be easy. It won’t.

Three translations of the same short verse:

1. Tao Te Ching, Ch. 63, translation by Roger T. Ames and David L. Hall

“Do things noncoercively (wuwei),
Be non-interfering in going about your business (wushi),
And savor the flavor of the unadulterated in what you eat.

Treat the small as great
and the few as many.

Requite enmity with character (de).

Take account of the difficult while it is still easy,
And deal with the large while it is still tiny.
The most difficult things in the world originate with the easy,
And the largest issues originate with the tiny.

Thus, it is because the sages never try to do great things
That they are indeed able to be great.

One who makes promises lightly is sure to have little credibility;
One who finds everything easy is certain to have lots of difficulties.

Thus, it is because even the sages pay careful attention to such things
That they are always free of difficulties.

2. Tao Te Ching, Ch. 63, Western transation

Act without doing;
work without effort.
Think of the small as large
and the few as many.
Confront the difficult
while it is still easy;
accomplish the great task
by a series of small acts.

The Master never reaches for the great;
thus she achieves greatness.
When she runs into a difficulty,
she stops and gives herself to it.
She doesn’t cling to her own comfort;
thus problems are no problem for her.

3. TaoTe Ching, Ch. 63, translation by Gia-fu Feng and Jane English

Practice non-action.
Work without doing.
Taste the tasteless.
Magnify the small, increase the few.
Reward the bitterness with care.

See significance in the complicated.
Achieve greatness in little things.

In the universe the difficult things are done as if they are easy.
In the universe great acts are made up of small deeds.
The sage does not attempt anything very big,
And thus achieves greatness.

Easy promises make for little trust.
Taking things lightly results in great difficulty.
Because the sage always confronts difficulties,
He never experiences them.

One response to “The Tao of Community Organizing

  1. I find it hard to believe the Tao Te Ching was written so long ago because of the timeless clarity that shines through lines like these!
    Liked your “Art of living alone” blog too. I think being alone has alot more potential than many give it credit for!
    Best wishes,

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