Here are some tantalizing excerpts from the newest computer-assisted translation of Lao Tzu's famous


The Way of the One and the Zero

With all due apology to Stephen Mitchell, who's translation was the basis for this, and, of course, Lao Tzu.

Written by Jeffrey Sorensen. This document is not copyrighted and is in the public domain. The author respectfully requests that his attribution and apology be retained during reproduction.


The tao that can be tar(1)ed
is not the entire Tao.
The PATH that can be specified
is not the full PATH.

We declare the names
of all variables and functions.
Yet the Tao has no type specifier.

Dynamically binding, you realize the magic.
Statically binding, you see only the hierarchy.

Yet magic and hierarchy
arise from the same source,
and this source has a null pointer.

Reference the NULL within NULL,
it is the gateway to all wizardry.


When users see one GUI as beautiful,
other user interfaces become ugly.
When users see some programs as winners,
other programs become lossage.

Pointers and NULLs reference each other.
High level and assembler depend on each other.
Double and float cast to each other.
High-endian and low-endian define each other.
While and until follow each other.

Therefore the Guru
programs without doing anything
and teaches without saying anything.
Warnings arise and he lets them come;
processes are swapped and he lets them go.
He has but doesn't chown,
acts but doesn't expect.
When his work is done, he deletes it.
That is why it lasts forever.


When you overesteem great hackers,
more users become cretins.
When you develop encryption,
more users become crackers.

The Guru leads
by emptying user's minds
and increasing their quotas,
by weakening their ambition
and toughening their resolve.
When users lack knowledge and desire,
management will not try to interfere.

Practice not-looping,
and everything will fall into place.


The Tao is like a glob pattern:
used but never used up.
It is like the extern void:
filled with infinite possibilities.

It is masked but always present.
I don't know who built it.
It came before the first kernel.


The Tao doesn't take sides;
it gives birth to both wins and losses.
The Guru doesn't take sides;
she welcomes both hackers and lusers.

The Tao is like a stack:
the data changes but not the structure.
the more you use it, the deeper it becomes;
the more you talk of it, the less you understand.

Hold on to the root.


The Tao is called the Great Server:
empty yet inexhaustible,
it gives birth to infinite networks.

Its code is present within you.
You can apply it any way you want.


Fill your disk to the brim
and it will fragment.
Keep adding features to your utility
and it will become unusable.
Chase after royalties and license fees
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about a luser's approval
and you will be his prisoner.

Do your work, then logout.
The only path to serenity.


Graphics blind the eyes.
Audio files deafen the ear.
Mouse clicks numb the fingers.
Heuristics weaken the mind.
Options wither the heart.

The Guru observes the net
but trusts his inner vision.
He allows things to come and go.
His heart is as open as the ether.


more, and it can't be read.
find, and it can't be located.
grep, and it can't be scanned.

In the foreground, it isn't a hog.
In the background, it isn't idle.
Contiguous, unpatchable,
it lives below the realm of logic.
From there it includes all formulas,
an image without a viewer,
virtual, beyond all conception.

Rewind it and there is no beginning;
Fast forward and there is no end.
You can't know it, but you can be it,
at ease in your own life.
Just realize where you log from:
this is the essence of wisdom.


The ancient Wizards were profound and subtle.
Their wisdom was unfathomable.
There is no way to describe it;
all we can do is read their source code.

They were careful
as someone writing an unbuffered stream.
Alert as a warrior in a dangerous MUD.
Courteous as an anonymous ftp.
Fluid as a morphing face.
Shapable as an interpolated spline.
Receptive as a dialup slip connection.
Clear as a sharpened bitmap.

Do you have the patience to wait
till the broadcast storm subsides and the net is clear?
Can you mask interrupts
till the right thunk arises by itself?

The Guru doesn't seek fulfillment.
Not seeking, not throwing exceptions,
she is present, and can welcome all things.


When the Guru administers, the users
are hardly aware that he exists.
Next best is a sysop who is loved.
Next, one who is feared.
And worst, one who is despised.

If you don't trust the users,
you make them untrustworthy.

The Guru doesn't talk, he hacks.
When his work is done,
the users say, "Amazing:
we implemented it, all by ourselves!"


When the great Tao is forgotten,
standards and protocols appear.
When management makes initiatives,
the great pretense begins.
When there is no peace in the newsgroup,
bigots spread their theology.
When the system becomes fragmented,
Holy Wars are born.


Throw away documentation and manuals,
and users will be a hundred times happier.
Throw away privileges and quotas,
and users will do the Right Thing.
Throw away proprietary and site licenses,
and there won't be any pirating.

If these three aren't enough,
just stay at your home directory
and let all processes take their course.


Whoever relies on the Tao in administrating
doesn't try force issues
or defeat enemies by revoking privilages.
For every hack there is a counterhack.
Flaming, even with a good intention,
will only bring flames in return.

The Guru does his job
and then signs off.
He understands that the net
is forever beyond his control,
and that trying to dominate events
goes against the current of the Tao.
Because he believes in himself,
he doesn't try to convince others.
Because he is content with himself,
he doesn't need others' approval.
Because he accepts himself,
the whole net accepts him.


The Tao can't be perceived.
Smaller than an bit,
it contains uncountable files.

If powerful men and women
could remain centered in the Tao,
all things would be harmony.
The net would become a paradise.
All users would be at peace,
and the standards would be
those written in their hearts.

When you have versions and releases,
know that they are provisional.
When you have consortia,
know where their functions should end.
Knowing when to stop,
you can avoid any danger.

All things end in the Tao
as sendmail flows into the net.


If you want to compress something,
you must first pkunzip it.
If you want to get rid of a virus,
you must first allow it to flourish.
If you want to get() something,
you must first allow it to be put().
This is called the subtle perception
of the way things are.

Soft mounting overcomes the hard error.
Brute force overcomes the heuristic.
Let your algorithms remain a mystery.
Just show users the results.


The return is the function of the Tao.
Responding is the way of the Tao.

All things begin as source code.
Source code begins with an empty file.


The Tao gives birth to One.
One gives birth to One Zero.
One Zero gives birth to One One.
One One gives birth to all things.

All things have their backs to the input
and stand facing the output.
When output and input combine,
all things achieve harmony.

Ordinary users hate solitude.
But the Guru makes use of it,
embracing his aloneness, realizing
he is one with cyberspace.


A tiny bug in a trivial routine
will overcome a moby system.
That which has no fee
enters where there is no market space.
This shows the value of "AS IS."

Teaching without manuals,
performing without commands:
that is the Guru's way.


When a system is in harmony with the Tao,
the compiler makes applications and utilities.
When a system goes counter to the Tao,
accounting logs fill the root directory.

There is no greater illusion than fear,
no greater wrong than in preparing to defend yourself,
no greater misfortune than having an enemy.

Whoever can see through all fear
will always be safe.


Without opening a graphics window,
you can open your soul to the net.
Without looking away from the console,
you can see the essence of the Tao.
The more files you access,
the less you hack.

The Guru accesses without protocols,
finds his man pages without keywords,
optimizes without compiling.


In the pursuit of knowledge,
every day something is appended.
In the practice of the Tao,
every day something is truncated.
Less and less do you need to force things,
until finally you arrive at non-looping.
When nothing is done,
nothing is left undone.

True wizardry can be gained
by letting things go their own way.
It can't be gained by interrupting.


The Guru has no mind of her own.
She works with the mind of the users.

She is good to users who are good.
She is also good to users who aren't good.
This is TRUE goodness.

She trusts users who are trustworthy.
She also trusts users who aren't trustworthy.
This is TRUE trust.

The Guru's mind is like free space.
Users don't understand her.
They look to her and wait.
She treats them like child processes.


Whoever is planted in the Tao
will not have their account revoked.
Whoever embraces the Tao
will not become obsolete.
Their .signatures will be met with honor
from generation to generation.

Let the Tao be present in your home
and you will become genuine.
Let it be present in your group
and your group will flourish.
Let it be present in your system
and your system will be an example
to all the systems in the net.
Let it be present in cyberspace
and all cyberspace will sync.

How do I know this is true?
By accessing myself.


Administering a large system
is like frying a small fish.
You spoil it with too much poking.

Center your system in the Tao
and lossage will have no power.
Not that it isn't there,
but you will be able to step out of its way.

Give lossage nothing to oppose
and it will disappear by itself.


The best MUD player
wants his opponents berserking.
The best consortium partner
lauds the products of his competitor.
The best corporate rep
serves the communal good.
The best sysop
follows the will of the users.

All of them embody
the virtue of non-contention.
Not that they don't love to compete,
but they do it with the spirit of hack-and-slay.
In this they are like wannabees
and congruent with the Tao.


My teachings are easy to grok
and easy to include in your programs.
Yet your neural net will never grasp them,
and if you try to code them, you'll fail.

My teachings are older than the net.
How can you grep their meaning?

If you want to know me,
look to your kernel.


Not-knowing is true knowledge.
Presuming to know is a bug.
First realize that you are broken;
then you can move toward perfection.

The Guru is her own debugger.
She has flushed herself of all knowing.
Thus she is truly whole.


When they lose their sense of awe,
users turn to religious wars.
When they no longer trust themselves,
they begin to depend upon the authorities.

Therefore the Guru steps back
so that users won't be confused.
He teaches without instructions,
so that users will have nothing to learn.


The Tao is always at ease.
It computes without grinding,
answers without outputing a word,
switches without being signaled,
continues without a program.

It accesses all cyberspace.
And though it spans many volumes,
is doesn't drop any bytes.


If you realize that all code changes,
there is nothing you should try to archive.
If you aren't afraid of hard drive failure,
there is nothing you can't achieve.

Trying to control the future
is like trying to debug a running kernel.
When you try to debug the system's kernel,
chances are you'll panic and crash.


When license fees are too high,
users do things by hand.
When the management is too intrusive,
users lose their spirit.

Hack for the user's benefit.
Trust them; leave them alone.


Failure is an opportunity.
If you blame another user,
there is no end to the blame.

Therefore the Guru
fulfills her own obligations
and debugs her own code.
She hacks what she needs to do
and demands nothing of her coworkers.


If a system is administered wisely,
its users will be content.
They enjoy hacking their code
and don't waste time implementing
labor-saving shell scripts.
Since they dearly love their accounts,
they aren't interested in other machines.
There may be telnet, rlogin, and ftp,
but these don't access any hosts.
There may be an arsenal of cracks and malware,
but nobody ever uses them.
People enjoy reading their mail,
take pleasure in being with their newsgroups,
spend weekends working at their terminals,
delight in the doings at the site.
And even though the next system is so close
that users can hear its keys clicking and biff beeps,
they are content to die of old age
without ever having gone to see it.