Tao of Management Verse 28

Today we look at the notion of “The Uncarved Block” and the saying “The Great Tailor does little cutting.”

Verse 28
Know the masculine,
Keep to the feminine,
And be the Brook of the World.
To be the Brook of the World is
To move constantly in the path of Virtue
Without swerving from it,
And to return again to infancy.

Know the white,
Keep to the black,
And the Pattern of the World.
To be the Pattern of the World is
To move constantly in the path of Virtue
Without erring a single step,
And to return again to the Infinite

Know the glorious,
Keep to the lowly,
And be the Fountain of the World.
To be the Fountain of the World is
To live the abundant life of Virtue,
And to return again to Primal Simplicity.

When Primal Simplicity diversifies,
It becomes useful vessels,
Which, in the hands of the Sage, become officers.
Hence, “a great tailor does little cutting.”

My Take:
This is the verse of “the Uncarved Block”, the importance of the giving side of Tao and the ultimate power of simplicity.

This translation calls the Uncarved Block the “Primal Simplicity”. Which is like a stem cell – it can become anything and contains within it the makings of everything. So too is the Sage supposed to be an “Uncarved Block”, a font of knowledge on many things, a generalist, rather than a technician. The “officers” referred to in the verse are the technicians.

I think the idea of the verse is to emphasize the giving, yielding nature of leadership, the nurturing and developing side of what we can now being a mentor. Also, I think it tells us that there is no weakness in this, but rather the development of a team of experts who surround a generalist; someone who knows how to get things done, how the wheels of the larger mechanism turn, perhaps how the larger design of the cloth comes together.

The phrase “a great tailor does little cutting” can be read in two ways. It means the tailor sees the whole, final product at once and creates neither unnecessary action nor waste. It also means the great tailor is not the one doing the cutting, that is left to the technicians.

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