“But it’s not about me.” Lance Johnson has spent the last hour telling me about his beautiful and precarious obsession with the sport known as triathlon—how it saved him, gave him purpose and then left him ruined physically.
He talked about how his dicey relationship with endurance sports inspired him to sit down and translate an ancient text so other athletes could find enlightenment in something other than the beat, beat, beat of their feet on the ground.
And still, it’s not about him.
Johnson, a Boulder resident and former triathlete, insists that the story behind his new book, The Triathlete’s Tao Te Ching, is how the reader interprets the text, if they find its relevance within their lives and their training, and how it may—or may not—provide clarity.
It’s not, he continues, how he came to be the source of this re-interpretation of Lao-Tzu’s Tao To Ching.
From the Triathlete’s Tao Te Ching:
When you see yourself as strong
weakness is created
When you see yourself as dedicated
laziness is created
The positive of a thing creates its negative
Difficult and easy are complements
Long and short each define the other
Fast and slow relate to one another
Ahead and behind mark each other
The Great Racer can act without definition
and encourage without words
Results are results
without success or failure
Times are times
without fast or slow
The satisfaction of the Race
is greater than expectation or accomplishment
Only your effort is eternal
In sixth century BC, the Tao Te Ching came to be. Or maybe it was the 3rd century. Historians don’t really agree just how or when the text originated, but they all connect it to a figure who goes by Lao Tzu, or “Old Master.” Some say Lao Tzu (also called Laozi) was the keeper of the archives at the imperial court. Others say he was a historian and astrologer. Today, many believe that Lao Tzu was really a pen name for a group of poets who compiled the Tao Te Ching from their writings.
The text has come to be the centerpiece of Taoism. There is a maddening ineffable quality to this philosophy. It’s all about “The Way,” but we are not necessarily sure which way is the way. Taoism is about harmony with nature, virtue, the pursuit of spiritual immortality, yin and yang.
The title of the Tao is often translated inelegantly in to “The Classic/Canon of the Way/Path and the Power/Virtue.” It’s broken up into chapters, or short poem-like verses that are each a beautiful little package of philosophic splendor. Its mysterious paragraphs offer advice on life and descriptions of the nature of the universe.