I finished reading Lao Tsu’s Tao Te Ching this morning. I marked it “Read” on Goodreads, and wondered, when the rating scale popped up, how does one decide how many stars to give an ancient religious text? Do people give star reviews for the Bible, the Torah, the Koran? (They do!).
Compared to something like the texts above, the Tao Te Ching is accessible and easy to read. It’s 81 pages, it’s simple, and it just might contain all the wisdom we need to navigate our time on earth. It is elegant in its simplicity. For that, I give it 5 stars.
That said, the Tao Te Ching is fairly repetitive, meaning those 81 pages could probably be cut even further. The messages in it really are very simple and don’t need to be said five different ways: opposites define and cannot exist without each other, best to accept them both; attachment leads to suffering; go with the flow instead of forcing; we reap what we sow. For the repetition, I’d give it 3 stars. Except that sometimes we need a thing to be repeated, and maybe from different angles, in order for it to click or for us to truly absorb it. Also, my summary does not get the point across quite as eloquently as the poetry of the Tao Te Ching. So maybe the repetition isn’t such a bad thing. I could be convinced to give 4 stars on the presentation of the material in this regard.
The hardest part to grapple with is the translation. I think I read one of the most popular ones (Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English), but I ended up googling some of the chapters because I couldn’t make sense of them in the translation I read. Though I say the messages in the Tao Te Ching are simple, the chapters themselves read like riddles, and I could only gain any meaning from some of them by reading multiple interpretations. So for translation, I don’t really know how to rate it because I don’t have the expertise to say whether my inability to decipher something was due to the translation or due to the original text or due to me just not getting it yet.
I ultimately gave it 4 stars, but I don’t know if that accurately reflects how I feel about it. It aligns with how I see the world and the universe and our place in everything, so it feels like I should give it a 5. I don’t know, I feel weird about rating it at all.