The pheasant of the marshes gets a peck once in ten steps, a drink once in a hundred. Yet it does not want to be fed in a cage. In the marshes, its spirit is healthy, and consequently it forgets health.
– Zhuangzi, Fung Yu-Lan translation
“These show that those who cultivate life best are those who cultivate their spirit best. To cultivate the spirit best is to set it free. If the spirit is in good condition, so also is the life, even though the body be in bad condition, as was the case with the Master of the Right. If the spirit is in bad condition, so also is the life, even though the body is in good condition, as was the case with the pheasant in a cage. Freedom of the spirit is essential to the cultivation of life.”
Excerpt from Chuang Tzu, Fung Yu-Lan’s translation.
There is something fundamentally honest and psychologically healthy in being oneself and striding forward with one’s vision facing directly ahead, instead of trying at every turn to satisfy abstract standards of goodness established by a reigning orthodoxy. This is what Te/De (德) is all about – Professor Victor Mair
The De, from Dao De Jing (or Tao Te Ching, Laozi’s philosophy, 6th century BCE) is about the spirit of the Dao manifested within you, where Dao is the cosmos, the earth, all things natural. It is omnipresent and embedded within you, me, those around us, and those far away. It is present in animals, trees, things we see, things we cannot see. Recognizing Dao is recognizing one big network, connecting you to your neighbour and to the granny in Brazil holding a child on her lap. Fung Yu-Lan writes that “Everything has its own Te, or virtue. Everything has its own proper nature. Everything is happy, if it is allowed to be in accordance with its own nature.” That’s a nice thought, isn’t it? Happiness is closer within reach than we think.
Very (very, very) simply put, De is you as part of Dao.