The Tao te Ching is the ultimate survival guide. It was written roughly 2500 years ago, by a figure known as Lao Tse (Laozi), or “Old Master”, though there is debate about whether such a person existed, or if the book is a compilation of writings by more than one author. Regardless, it is one of the most important books ever written, and has enormous relevance to survival.
Some of the themes covered in the book have to do with simplicity, contentedness, living in harmony with nature, and humility. These are all crucial for survival, whether in the wilderness or in civilization, whether for the individual or for the human species as a whole. Actually, these were all key characteristics of hunter-gatherer cultures across the globe, but have been severely lacking for the 6,000-year history of civilizations. In fact, the Tao te Ching contradicts civilization – even as it seems to give guidance for wise governance, leadership, or statecraft – guidance which is impossible for civilizations to follow. Again, the only examples of the Tao te Ching in action were in hunter-gatherer societies. And remember, hunter-gatherers were the true masters of survival, having lived on Earth for two million years, without destroying the life-sustaining abilities of the planet, and while allowing people to live healthy, meaningful, and joyous lives. If the people cannot live healthy, meaningful and joyous lives, then there is no reason for such a way of life to survive. That's why civilizations always fail, always collapse, and always end.
There are countless translations of the Tao te Ching, which can vary widely, so read from a few to get a better sense of the meaning. If you can read Chinese, you're even better off. Read it, consider it, discuss it with others.
Let's have a look at a few lines to get a sense. (Stephen Mitchell translation)