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.

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.

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