Verse two is pretty mind blowing. It’s impressive how massive topics are addressed in one fell swoop with just a few lines! There are two halves to verse two. In the first half of the verse, we are given a lesson in the dualistic nature of this plane of existence. Simply put, absolutely everything we label as opposites are one and the same, happening and existing simultaneously as two sides of a single coin. While we may initially need ugliness to know beauty, we are ultimately meant to see their oneness.
The second half of verse two takes us into the world of the Sage – one who is aligned with Tao. The lines quickly let us experience the heart of the sage. This person is completely, utterly natural and unforced in his/her every movement through life. And the verse reassures the student that when we move in harmony with Tao, life is easy. We do not put up resistance. We do not strive. We do not obsess over getting. We simply move, work, give, and BE. In so doing, “All things flourish around [us].” There is one line that implies the sage is one who does not feed his/her ego in any way.
The verse also, in a very subtle way I think, gives us a glimpse at the nature of impermanence. There is a hint, if you pay close attention to a couple of the lines, that any action initiated from ego will be like all else in this world – it will pass and has no lasting qualities. However, what is done in harmony with Tao does not pass. Something tells me we’ll see more on this particular subject in future verses!