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The meaning of the verses quoted in this chapter carries out the principle enunciated in Chapter 11. The utility of things, as well as the worth of life, is attained not by having everything in completion and in fulness, but by selecting some parts and omitting others, by moderation and by discrete elimination. All the colors blind you, a discrete selection will make a picture. All the notes make a noise, while a few of them in

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proper succession make a melody. All the tastes mixed together are offensive, but a choice of them is pleasant.

Such is Lao-tze's method of teaching that the form of things is more important than substance. (See also Chapter 11.)

In former editions we have translated the quotation thus:

"The five colors the human eye will blind,
The five notes the human ear will rend,
The five tastes the human mouth offend."
"Racing and hunting will human hearts turn mad,
Objects of prize make human conduct bad."

*   *   *

The phrase "he attends to the inner and not to the outer" reads in a literal translation "acts the stomach, not acts the eye."

The outer and the inner are called in Chapter 38 the flower and the fruit, the

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former being the mere show, the latter the true import of life.

Next: Chapter 13