Sing, sing the Tao Te Ching! / Blog

A Good Knot Needs No Rope: Canto 27

I return frequently to a favorite line from John McDonald's translation of the Tao Te Ching is, "...a good knot needs no rope and it cannot come undone." Although I can't remember a specific occasion, I have seen small framed collections of nautical knots at seafood restaurants and perhaps also at boy scout demonstrations that were a big part of my life years ago. I find these fascinating and - more generally - the way that knot-making instructions are communicated in words (think, "...the rabbit goes around the tree, through the hole, and...") and by diagrams with arrows pointing out the loops and twists of the rope. As rudimentary as these are, the knowledge of knots has been maintained for centuries , maybe millenia. Indeed, a good knot needs no rope.

Canto 27

[G] A good traveller [C] leaves no tracks [G] and a [G] skillful speaker is [C] well rehearsed[G]. A [D] good bookkeeper has an [C] excellent [G] memory, and [G] well-made door is [C] easy to open [G] and needs no locks. A [G] good knot needs no rope and it [C] cannot come undone [G].

Thus the [G] Master is willing to help [C] everyone, and [G] doesn't know the meaning of [C] rejection [G]. [D] She is there to help all of [C] creation, and [G] doesn't [C] abandon [G] even the smallest [C] creature. [G] This is called embracing the [C] light.

What is a [D] good person but a [C] bad person's [G] teacher? What is a [D] bad person but [C] raw material for his [G] teacher? [D] If you fail to [C] honor your [G] teacher or [C] fail to enjoy your [G] student, [C] you will become [G] deluded [C] no matter [C] how smart you [G] are. It is the [C] secret of [G] prime importance [C] [G] [C]

Broad Street Cafe Open Mic

As soon as I got onstage, I mumbled about how I had set each of the Cantos to music and that I was doing government themed songs because the presidential debate between Obama and Romney was underway; it felt a little thin. Then it took me a little while to find the right page. I have since committed '58 and 60' to memory. Not the tunes, the numbers.

Mamdou was before me singing first with Jason a pretty good jam. I got into it, but I didn't get too into it. The tunes felt good and flowing in the pocket. I was able to be free with my voice, And it didn't suffer too much from being themed.

Uploading Canto 66

As I am uploading Canto 66, I look over the first few words, "Rivers and seas are rulers of the streams of hundreds of valleys..." and love the water references. I have an image in my mind of the Linville Gorge and surrounding watershed where all the streams and springs flow into the river. But there is something about the eighth line that rubs me the wrong way. "The people will not feel burdened, if a wise person is in a position of power...", sounds like un-reality to me. I mean, most folks have burdens that are unrelated to whose in charge. Child ill. Job is a squeeze. Snakebite. Sore elbow. Though it is important to pay attention to politics and keep engaged, leaders aren't everything...

Canto 66 Public Domain Song by Vito Di Bona Public Domain Translation by John Mc Donald

Am Rivers and seas are rulers Dm of the streams of hundreds of valleys Am Dm because of the power of their low position

Am Dm If you want to be the ruler of people Am G Am you must speak to them like you are their servant Am Dm If you want to lead other people Am G Am you must put their interests ahead of your own

Am Dm The people will not feel burdened Am Dm if a wise person is in a position of power Am Dm The people will not feel like they are being G Am manipulated, Am if a wise person is in front as their leader. Am The whole world will ask for her guidance, Am and will never get tired of her. Am Because she does not like to compete, Am no one can compete with the things she Am accomplishes.


I ran through the last set of 9 Cantos: Canto 73 to Canto 81. And it felt good! One of the reasons is that I have been recording each canto in 9 groups of 9; a project which has grown to become my musical focus over the past 3 years. The words really speak to me.

Gay Pride Parade in Durham

Lots of fun and emotional to cheer on the drag floats, marching band, fire engines, HS kids and faith groups. Yep, we all belong. The cowboy from the Village People was in the parade and said, "Honey, you look good" to Jason who was standing beside me. Jason was wearing only a small t shirt and rainbow striped bikini briefs. My almost two year old son was bundled up against the chill rain.