TAOISM | The Art of Not Trying PT.3

….I quote: This is what the world honors: wealth, eminence, long life, a good name. This is what the world finds happiness in: a lifetime of ease, rich food, fine clothes, beautiful sights, sweet sounds. This is what it’s down on: poverty, meanness, early death, a nasty name. The things it finds bitter are: a life that has no rest, a mouth that tastes no rich food, no fine clothes for the body, no beautiful sights for the attention , no sweet sounds for the ear. People who can’t get these things fret a great deal and are afraid – this is often a stupid way to treat the body. People who are rich File:The dragon, image, and demon; or, The three religions of China- Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism, giving an account of the mythology, idolatry, and demonolatry of the Chinese (1887) (14597358009).jpgwear themselves out rushing around on business, piling up more wealth than they might ever use – this is often a superficial way to treat the body. End quote. So, when chasing happiness is a blind alley, what should we do instead? Well, the Taoists give us some suggestions. But before we go into them, let’s look at the third one: Trying to be something else The Zhuangzi tells us a story about animals and the wind that envy each other for their inborn characteristics. The centipede envies the snake for the fact that it can move without legs, but the snake envies the wind for its ability to travel great distances without having a body at all. However, the wind argues that it takes just a finger or foot to hinder it. All in all, nature has created everything with its own attributes. Nothing is better than the other; only judgment makes it so. Thus, we feel the need to change who we are, just to fit an ideal. White-skinned people try to be tanned, while East-Asians try to look more European, brunettes try to be blondes, and blondes try to be brunettes. Also, we try to change ourselves because we want to conform to a manmade standard; to fit in, simply because we’re seen as defects when we don’t. So, a sixth’ finger is cut off, just to comply with the five-finger standard. Why can’t we just be who we are, the way nature intended us to be? That would be so much easier. Everyone and everything has its place in the whole. And by trying to alter this, we bring the world in disbalance. I quote: When people see things as beautiful, ugliness is created. When people see things nearly as good , evil is made . Being and non-being produce each other. Difficult and easy complement each other. Long and short define each other. High and low oppose each other. Fore and aft follow each other. End quote. So, how can we put these ideas into practice? The Taoists suggest several things. First of all, the Zhuangzi points to the benefits of taking the middle-path. This means that we shouldn’t stretch ourselves beyond our means, but stay centered, so we conserve our health and stay close to our own nature. “Strive for the middle; pass what is constant, and one will stay in one piece, keep ones self-alive, take care of your parents, and live out your years.” The Tao is constant. And one who seeks the Tao unlearns something new every day, according to Lao Tzu. So instead of limiting ourselves to a belief system, we let go, keep an open mind, and give the universe room to show itself as it is. Trying to change nature is a futile pursuit, as is trying to blur our vision of nature by man-made constructs. Instead of adding to knowledge, we let go of knowledge, until we reach some extent of inner stillness. Only then, we’re opening ourselves up to the Tao, or what we, from a theistic point of view, could call God. In this state of emptiness, we feel content. And contentment is true happiness. The Taoists call this process the fasting of the heart. By unlearning something every day, the Taoist arrives at non-action. It’s the art of not trying, while nothing will be left undone.

 

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