Success or Disgrace? Tao Te Ching verse 13 for Artists

 

Verse 13*

Favor and disgrace make one fearful
The greatest misfortune is the self
What does “favor and disgrace make one fearful” mean?
Favor is high; disgrace is low
Having it makes one fearful
Losing it makes one fearful
This is “favor and disgrace make one fearful”
What does “the greatest misfortune is the self” mean?
The reason I have great misfortune
Is that I have the self
If I have no self
What misfortune do I have?
So one who values the self as the world
Can be given the world
One who loves the self as the world
Can be entrusted with the world

 

This verse is very appropriate to the artist, as it can apply to how he/she is perceived by critics and the public. Is the artist considered to be successful, liked , and preferred by many, or is the artist’s work being criticized or “disgraced”?
In both circumstances, pain is inevitable. Having it all, makes one worry about losing it, to question ones own abilities… No wonder so many famous artists are medicating themselves to ease the pain. Needless to say, how painful is it to be disrespected or have a bad reputation.
Interesting that Lao Tzu attributes this suffering to the ego, the “self”, as without it there would be no pain. The more dominated we are by that ego, the more vulnerable we become and the more prone we are to suffering.
The advice here again is to seek balance, to put as much importance to the quality of the creation as to one’s recognition.

* I am using  Translation by Derek Lin as examples of verses, but there are many different translations with different nuances and sensibilities of the translators. This is my today’s interpretation….As time passes, as we change, the meaning changes.   Please leave  your own thoughts on this. 

 

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