When the government is unobtrusive,
The people remain sincere.
But when the government interferes with their lives,
The people contend with each other for advantage.
Good fortune follows from bad fortune,
Just as bad fortune follows from good—
No one knows what lies just around the corner.
Thus there is no right way,
Because what is right soon deviates into what is wrong,
And excellence is soon beset by the ominous.
For a long time now
The people have struggled to figure out how to live.
So the sage cultivates a sharp wit,
But does not use it to cut the dullards down.
He speaks honestly, but does not insult.
He deals directly, but does not bully.
Though his wisdom illuminates,
It does not blind or dazzle.
You may order or download The Tao Te Ching here.
List of verses here