The highest good is like water.
Water gives life to the ten thousand things and does not strive.
It flows in places men reject and so is like the Tao.
In dwelling, be close to the land.
In meditation, go deep in the heart.
In dealing with others, be gentle and kind.
In speech, be true.
In ruling, be just.
In business, be competent.
In action, watch the timing.
No fight; No blame.
Water is something that delineates boundaries and exhibits the influence of gravity, the ultimate attraction of matter to itself expressed in the form of movement and energy. It shows the duality of matter and energy, separation yet integration: it rolls over any surface, yet it also blends effortlessly with other substances. This thoroughness, the nature of water, does not choose its path but exhibits the underlying forces that allow it to move and penetrate further to the core of the earth. The only time when water doesn’t perceivably move is when it has frozen, and even then a glacier will flow towards the ocean. The gentleness of this verse lies in this secret movement of everything closer to the center.
To reach this heart or core of reality, one must effortlessly move closer with the thoroughness and gentleness of water trickling through earth. Being gentle means not striving, exemplified in the last line, “No fight; No blame.” When one follows the principle that brings one closer to the core of any part of life, one will have no fight. The core of ruling is justice, the core of speech is truth, the core of action is timing; their respective cores uphold their definition. Without truth, speech would have no meaning; without justice, ruling would not be necessary; without timing, action could not be discerned.
“No fight” can mean a full engagement with one’s surroundings, with a knowledge of that force which draws each aspect of life towards its center, its meaning. It also means that one has a state of balance and harmony such that the energy of engagement is small compared to that of the forces that define the cores, which exhibit ultimate principles of the universe in the same way the power of the earth and sun are drawn together by gravity to ultimately generate life.