"If you are depressed, you are living in the past; if you are anxious, you are living in the future; if you are at peace, you are living in the present"
The above is a "quote" floating around the internet that is attributed to Lao Tzu. Of course, Lao Tzu never wrote anything like that and the reference to "depression" and "anxiety" should give it away. Alternatively, it's vacuity and 'deepism' should let you know that something is up. At the very least, the lack of verse number tells you that the person quoting didn't actually read this in the Tao Te Ching
Hilariously, I've also seen this quote attributed to Warren Buffet. The real source seems to be a Brazillian neuro-linguistic programming self-help guru Junia Bretas. Or at least, that is as far as I am willing to search.
The misattribution raises some questions for me on the abuse of authority and quotation
On a quick reading, the lines seem as if something deep has been said. However, reflecting on them for a moment lets you see that there is no insight. I feel like that if you know that the quote comes from a person not known for deep thoughts then you will dismiss it after this initial reflection. But if you see the name of somebody that commands respect and authority, like Lao Tzu (if you are trying to appeal to meditating hippies) or Warren Buffet (if you are trying to appeal to a different demographic) then you might believe that you should distrust your initial dismissal.
Is that also the reason for why people share this quote without having actually read it in the Tao Te Ching
or gotten it from a reliable source? Or why other misquotes propagate?
The final twist, of course, is the old man himself. Lao Tzu is more myth than man and there is reason to believe that the early Taoist manufactured him as a way to pull authority on early Confucists. In particular, they selected a master named Lao Dan that was told in folk tales to have taught the rites to Kongzi and attributed the Tao Te Ching
to him. A misquotation to start us off.
/cc +John Baez
, +Forrest Barnum
, +David Basanta
, +Maylin Cui
, +Abel Molina
, +Dirk Puehl
This post is based on a discussion I started on /r/taoism: http://www.reddit.com/r/taoism/comments/38z14i/if_you_are_depressed_you_are_living_in_the_past/
and the background image is a sample of writing in the Great Seal Script that was used in China during the dates traditionally given for the writing of the Tao Te Ching
taken from the translation of the book (by William Scott Wilson) that I have on my desk. Of course, it is completely unrelated to the quote.