Being of the low sort is ok

by Andrea Elizabeth

One delusion is believing you’re a respectable person. This, or rather the idea of realizing the superiority of your own unrespectability, struck me in the following quote from the Introduction to The Wisdom of Laotse by Lin Yutang,

The first reaction of anyone scanning the Book of Tao is laughter; the second reaction, laughter at one’s own laughter; and the third, a feeling that this sort of teaching is very much needed today. Laotse says:

When the highest type of men hear the Tao (truth)
They try hard to live in accordance with it.
When the mediocre hear the Tao,
They seem to be aware and yet unaware of it.
When the lowest type hear of Tao,
They break into loud laughter –
If it were not laughed at, it would not be Tao.

I am quite sure that the reaction of the majority of readers on first looking into Latose’s book will be to laugh. I say this without any disrespect, for I did that myself. The highest type of scholars end by laughting with Laotse at the preoccupations of the philosophers of the day. After that, Laotse becomes a lifelong friend. (p. 5)

The assumption is that the writer doesn’t disrespect himself, and that makes anyone who behaves as he does, even if it makes him of the lowest type, also respectable. “That’s ok, I do the same thing,” is a common scepter wave. Who do we think we are?! I understand it’s meant to put people at ease. When the audience thinks the teacher is superior (as this teacher thinks himself, or at least thinks that the student does), this may be a good thing, but I still think a not overly done sense of it not being ok should accompany it. Or maybe I’m too intolerant of people’s, including my own, developmental stages. Oh, I don’t know. ha ha ha. :\