Friday, January 14, 2011

Bring it about that the people will return

Bring it about that the people will return to the use of the knotted rope,
Will find relish in their food
And beauty in their clothes,
Will be content in their abode
And happy in the way they live.

I saw this mysterious bit of I-don't-know-what (poetry? advice? aphorism?) on a scrap of paper tacked to a post in a friend's house in the woods. He didn't know the source of it. It struck me and I wrote it down. A couple of years later I finally Googled it, and it turns out that it comes from chapter 80 in D.C. Lau's translation of the Tao Te Ching.

I think it is about the attainment of simplicity, the richness of a life when even the most mundane of things are valued, cherished and made beautiful. I like the first line, it is so jarring (what the heck do we do with a knotted rope?!?) but I think it speaks to how we go about achieving that simplicity and richness, by learning old intricate skills that actually serve a purpose of some kind in a simple life. There is deep happiness, contentment, in that.

In the past couple of years I have had need of knotted rope, and I know that there are many kinds of knots, each one serving a particular purpose. Knowing your knots can be a handy thing indeed.

I am laying low for a bit. I took delivery of two cord of firewood the day before a major snow storm here. I spent as much time as I could chucking and stacking that wood in a shed before the storm started, and then a major amount of time shovelling snow afterwards. Between those two things my back is complaining bitterly.


Barbara Anne said...

I like the quotation, too, and value the old skills that served people well both then and now. We have several books, including the first four Foxfire books, that show how many tasks were accomplished in the past. In fact, each of our sons has a knot tying book! You cannot have two much practical knowledge.

Our snow is almost gone.

Take good care of your back and feel better soon. Hope you have a heating pad plus aspirin or Alive (it has naprosyn in it which is an anti-inflammatory).


Wisewebwoman said...

Oh that sounds like an overdone with all the work....
I hope it heals and you will now take it easy.
It ain't easy being primitive women.
I love the poem!

20th Century Woman said...

The knotted rope immediately brought to mind a crude saying of my step-father's about knotted ropes. Won't repeat it here though. It did make me wonder as a child what knotted ropes were used for.

Take care of your back. I always find that mine gets better more quickly if I walk. Keeping moving seems to prevent it tightening up.

Annie said...

Oh 20CW, you've got me going now, I wonder what that knotted rope reference is!!! PS, I have an email link on my blog ;-)

I find the same thing, walking helps. I'm walking...

WWW, I gotta get that wood in, it keeps snowing here! Unlike where you are :-(

5400AirportRdSouth said...

I'm going to go out on a limb and speculate the "knotted rope " is a reference to hemp...

But I like the excerpt as well, even if I have no plans to return to " the use of knotted rope ".

I am however quite proud of the fact that I can tie half-hitches, locking half-hitches, bow lines and reef knots.

Alan G said...


I read somewhere where the knotted rope was used by the Incas for recording inventory of their stores. I wonder if there is perhaps here an inference that knotted ropes reflect a persons "wealth" whereas a lack of knots reflects poverty or as you suggested - contentment?

Just a thought...

Annie said...

Hmmm, well I suppose that the use of hemp might lead to all of the other effects, LOL

And perhaps knotted rope is linked to poverty and some kind of contentment related to that, who knows.

As for the crude reference, well...

Interesting all the things that knotted rope evokes for us!