The outsider

Adrian Mole or Meursault from The Outsider (L’Étranger)? Perhaps with a dash of Pink Floyd added in. This is one of a very few passages in the Daodejing that is written in the first person, though it is not known who the actual writer is.

It could, I suppose, be Laozi, but this is highly doubtful. More likely it’s some  editor or commentator who succeeded in sneaking the section in later.

The intent of the writer is to position himself as a classic outsider detached from mundane human wants and desires. To me, at least, his protestations of loneliness and confusion come across as mere rhetorical devices that only serve to bolster his superiority over the hoi polloi. After all, the big difference between him and them is that he “prize(s) being nourished by the Mother.”

Despite the beauty and sophistication of the language, I see more of Adrian Mole in him than Meursault. For all his pretensions of modesty, the writer wants other people to notice the nobility of his self-proclaimed isolation, while as he prepares for his execution Meursault doesn’t care a jot what others think of him.

「絕學無憂,唯之與阿,相去幾何?善之與惡,相去若何?人之所畏,不可不畏。
荒兮其未央哉!眾人熙熙,如享太牢,如春登臺。我獨泊兮其未兆,如嬰兒之未孩。儡儡兮若無所歸!眾人皆有餘,而我獨若遺。我愚人之心也哉,沌沌兮!俗人昭昭,我獨昏昏。俗人察察,我獨悶悶。澹兮其若海,飂兮若無止。眾人皆有以,而我獨頑且鄙。我獨異於人,而貴食母。
Reject learning and your troubles end.
How much difference is there between yes and no?
How much difference is there between good and evil?
If you have to fear what other people fear,
Your fears will be endless!
Everyone is out having fun,
As if enjoying a holiday feast,
As if ascending a terrace in spring.
I alone am quiet and show no emotions;
Like a new-born baby who has not yet learned to smile;
Like someone who has no home to go to.
Everyone has plenty;
I alone have nothing.
I have the mind of a fool, understanding nothing.
Everyone sees things clearly;
I alone am confused.
Everyone is sharp;
I alone am dull,
Drifting like the ocean waves,
Aimless like the gusting wind.
Everyone has a purpose.
I alone am ignorant and uncouth.
I alone am different from the everyone else,
I prize being nourished by the mother.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponEmail this to someone

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *