Use the Dao, Dude!
Today, I wanna talk about the school of philosophy I have the most of “unintentional overlap” with: Daoism. There’s two things I wanna clear up before I get started:
1) “Dao” is pronounced like you throw a “D” in front of the word “ow”so "Dow" and "Dowism". Some people spell the word with a “T” due to how the chinese characters were originally translated into our alphabet, but even when you see it spelled “Tao” and “Taoism” the words are pronounced with a “D” sound.
2) Something to note is that Daoism is both a school of Chinese philosophy called Dao Jia and a Chinese religion called Dao Jiao, and this essay is about the Dao Jia (philosophical Daoism).
I also need to make it absolutely clear that I’m not an expert on Daoism. I’ve read Laozi and Zhuangzi many times, but I only remember the basic themes. When I say the Dao is contradictory and confusing, that’s just my interpretation.
Alright, let’s start the show!
I guess I’ll start at the beginning. Starting there makes more sense to me than starting at the middle or the end for some reason. Here’s a boring overview of factual (re:lame) information about the philosophy:
(I promise I’ll get silly as fast as possible, muh dudes)
The word “Dao” translates literally into “Way”, so “The Dao” translates to “The Way”. In Daoism, “The Dao” is intended to mean something along the lines of “the natural way of world.” Daoism began in ancient China, and is said to have been founded by a man named Laozi. Historians are unsure of many details surrounding Laozi’s life but he’s the person credited with writing Daoism’s most widely known and influential sacred text, called the Dao De Jing (DDJ) or “Laozi” after its supposed author. The authorship of the Dao De Jing is highly disputed, and many historians are unsure whether Lao Tzu even existed.
There are other Daoist texts besides the Dao De Jing (Laozi/DDJ), such as Zhuangzi and the I Jing. Of the various texts, Laozi and Zhuangzi are considered the most important and those two writings form the foundations of Daoism.
Laozi and Zhuangzi are the Chinese names of the books’ authors, Laozi and Zhuangzi. Technically, both have the last name “-zi”, but that’s not a name; it’s a title that means “master”. Master Lao and Master Zhuang supposedly wrote two books: Laozi wrote the Dao De Jing and Zhuangzi wasn’t a fan of putting titles on his shit.
The Dao De Jing/Laozi is a very cryptic text, and a lot is left to the reader’s interpretation. It’s a collection of short parables, generally 2-5 sentences long which are all disconnected from each other but have many repeating themes.
The Zhuangzi is a collection of short stories and fables meant to exemplify the virtues of Daoism and promotes a carefree attitude that doesn’t struggle against the forces of the world and just goes where life pushes a person. It’s very critical of society’s common misconceptions surrounding what’s good and bad, the things people should want out of life, and mankind’s idea that we’re separate from nature.
There's free copies of Laozi(DDJ) and Zhuangzi. You can scroll on down and give ‘em a peek if you like, but I think reading the essay first might help you understand ‘em a lil bit better. That’s your call, so you do you. As for me, I’ve got writing I gotta get back to…
Daoism believes that all existence is fueled and guided something called the “Dao” which translates to “the way”. However, Laozi says in the DDJ that the Dao is "eternally nameless" as that's the only way to keep the Dao distinguished from the infinite named things that are created from the Dao.
In the DDJ, the Dao is regarded as an energy that gives life to, flows through, and is the substance of all things in existence.
The Dao is basically the Force. You’ve seen “Star Wars” right?
(Heh... yeah you have, quit lyin’... wait... you haven’t Star Wars? You're sure? Luke Skyvader? Darth Solo? Hanbacca? Princess Layers?
You’ve really never seen Star Wars?!? Oh my god… you’re serious... alright, you’re not wanted here. Get the fuck off my page. No, I’m not kiddin’. Fuggin’ kick rocks, homie)
Sorry about that, muh dudes; I dunno where these assholes get off not likin’ the things I like. The nerve of some people man, I swear.
Anyway, the Dao is the Force, and following Daoism turns you into a legitimate Jedi Knight. Trust me, I’ve seen it with my own two eyes. I’m still a lowly padawan, but I’m fuggin’ proud of even gettin accepted into the Jedi training program at all. My scores on all the entry tests, particularly in compassion, were stupid low.
I’ll get into some of the more central philosophies in a second, but all of those philosophies center around containing your ego, accepting things as they are so you don’t block the Dao’s flow, and committing the act of “De” or channeling that flow to help bring more Dao in the world.
(Note that I said "containing your ego" and not "ridding yourself of ego")
De and Dao are essentially the same thing. The simplest way to put it is that “De” is the verb form of the noun “Dao”. If the Dao is “The natural way of the world” then De is “The natural way of doing things.”
(I need to reiterate that I’m not an expert, and don’t claim to be. This interpretation can be wrong, and most likely is lacking some form of nuance)
Both are the same infinite, nameless, formless, caring and guiding energy. However, Dao is a force acting on you and around you, De is when you let that force become you and move you which cause you to bring Dao into this world where it continues its flow through you and becomes Dao once you've finished the act. It's much simpler than it sounds, and you often De without knowing it.
I first encountered Daoism while I was in a rehab program ordered by my probation officer because I’d gotten busted for drinking way too many times. I was outside smoking one day after groups had finished talking to a couple guys while we all waited for rides to meetings, and the topic of conversation got onto Buddhism. In 12-step programs and the treatment programs that model them, spirituality and recognizing a power greater than yourself is supremely important so you end up discussing them a lot. Another guy was sitting down at the other end of the table smoking and overheard my thoughts on Buddhism and non-attachment. He seemed very agreeable to what I’d said, and told me he had a book about the Dao he thought I should read because it changed his life.
I forget the title of the book, but it certainly changed my life as well. Daoism seemed dope AF to me; I wanted to learn everything I could and read the teachings firsthand. The book presented Daoism as a very freethinking and unrestrictive school of thought and it preached my philosophies on acceptance and tolerance. The general idea of the Dao fits with my suspicion that all existence literally is God, as well.
I had my Mom buy me a copy of Laozi and Zhuangzi on kindle and started reading. The book explaining Daoism to me said one of the many things considered virtuous in Daoism is reaching your own understanding of things, and I wanted to read the sacred texts for myself. My mind was blown by the fact that the message of the religion was free-thought, self exploration, and a mission of personal discovery.
(I didn’t know the difference between the Dao Jia and the Dao Jiao at the time, and found out it was actually a school of philosophy much much later)
A common practice in 12-step programs is a morning meditation where people read a small passage from a 12-step recovery-centric book and meditate on it briefly when they get up. I started doing morning meditation by reading a parable from the DDJ and pondering it instead of reading from 12-step literature. It's not that I dislike the 12-step readings, they were inspirational and often poignant.
The reason I chose the Laozi’s DDJ over a recovery-based book is because it challenged my mind to seek answers from it that fit the frameworks of my understanding while knowing for a fact that the framework of it's understanding was intentionally different from mine. This made meditation a much more productive exercise for me. 12-step literature gives you an answer that you repeat to yourself over and over in your head until you've engraved it. DDJ plants a seed that grows an oak tree in your heart.
Then at night, I’d try to read a story out of the Zhuangzi before going to sleep. I was really good about remembering the morning Laozi; at night I’m often sleepy and as soon as I reach my bed I pass right out so the Zhuangzi got skipped over more than it should have. I also struggled with the translation I got of Zhuangzi, and I know for a fact there's an easier to grasp copy out there.
(If anyone has a plug that's slangin' that Zhuangzi, hook me up I need my fix)
I kept this practice of reading from Laozi in the AM and Zhuangzi in the PM up for a good four or five months after relapsing as well; I love the two books. I often pick the practice back up for a couple months at times here and there before slowly forgetting to do it every day. I’m certain I’ll pick it up again soon since this article has me thinking back to how much more fulfilling my life feels when I do it.
So, I really only remember two parables from the DDJ reflexively off the top of my head, and actually one of them may only be a fragment of a parable now that I think about it.
Keep in mind, this is paraphrasing off the top of my head. Not legit Laozi quotes. They're closer to mock-DDJ forgeries, however I'm sure the Dao would approve if I could have it speak through me. Unfortunately, the Dao doesn't vouch for people; it's a busy world guiding, life growing spiritual force/entity.
The reason I wanna attempt to paraphrase you these two is they illustrate some of what I said about the DDJ being left to interpretation, and they also set up my next point. I also need the last 2 remnants of DDJ's words still in my soul confirmed by the internet, and if these are wrong, I'll find out I'm sure. Ayo, let's go:
“If it can be put into words, it’s not the Dao” and “Any man who says he knows surely doesn’t know. Any man who says he doesn’t know surely does.”
I have trouble trying to offer an interpretation of these with any sort of certainty, because they essentially form an “anti-bullshit” seal that makes it so no matter what I say it’s bullshit. Still, these two quotes are very important to my personal understanding of Dao. I like that I can’t tell people “well I’ve been through more and spent more time researching and philosophizing on spirituality so I know more.” Keeping myself humble is important
If I were to try and break that anti-bs seal and offer my interpretations of these parables, I would guess the first quote means that the Dao is the things in life that come from unconscious intuition. You don’t know them, you don’t practice them, but you see them. If you understand them, you do them with ease. I believe this knowing without knowing is represents the Dao.
The second parable preaches humility, which is why I've kept it so long. I need to remember I don't know shit. Humility is a message you’ll see in the DDJ a lot if you give the text a little readee-poo.
Despite that, I’ll act like I’m special and talk about why the Dao is so important in my life: Practical real world functionality.
The emphasis on humility displayed in that parable is important to me, because it keeps me where I belong:
In my place, with all mankind.
I have ASPD, which is sociopathy, but along with that there’s a comorbidity of narcissistic traits. That’s a fancy way of saying not only am I a sociopath, but a self-absorbed narcissist as well.
For most people, positive encouragement and positive self talk are healthy necessary things that they need to get through the day. For me, they’re a highly toxic poison that’ll inflate my head to the size of the sun.
When my head gets that big, puttin’ on shirts gets way harder and the gravitational pull my head gains from being that size draws in massive amounts of bullshit. Most of this site’s self-deprecating humor is centered on keepin’ me where I should be:
Right with the rest of humanity, because I’m nothin’ special.
I tell myself I’m smart, really there’s many who are much smarter than I am, they just bite their tongues and keep it to themselves. I tell myself I’m wise, really all my good philosophies are the ones I’ve stolen from someone much wiser than I am. I’m not as good looking, funny, charitable, or compassionate as I tell myself I am.
Really when it comes to truly valuable traits like charity and compassion, I’ve got almost none at all. Lack of compassion is among my worst flaws as a person, and I have trouble even recognizing the need for me to attempt connecting with my fellow man. It’s horrible.
So that’s like… humility and shit. Threw some compassion in there too, cause I need some and that’s another one of the central themes of Laozi. Turnin’ yourself into Average Joe McHumblestuff and gettin’ a job at the local care-for-the-world factory is something you gotta keep in mind for when you’re Dein’ through life just kickin up Dao everywhere you go.
So Mr. McHumblestuff, I told you earlier about the Dao and De, remember? Next I wanna talk about a principle centered around how you look at life that’s central to the act of Dein’ things up. There’s a crucial technique to help you bring Dao into the world, and you should definitely hear about it. That technique is built from a principle called “wu-wei”. (pronounced “woo way”)
I’m unsure of the exact translation for wu wei, but it was explained to me as “acting without intending”, “doing without doing”, or “naturalness”. Basically, it means be one with life and don’t try to force things. Spontaneity. The idea is that when you try forcing you desires and intentions into existence through your actions, your ego gets in the way of the Dao. Instead act natural by being guided by the Dao.
Okay, so I looked up the exact translation for the wooest of all ways. It’s “non-action” or “non-doing”. Thanks Wikipedia!
(Time back in)
Wu wei is very close to our culture’s principle of acceptance, though wu wei is largely applied to things you do rather than things outside of you. Really though, wu wei is a concept that contains our understanding of acceptance, but also applies to our thinking and actions as well.
When you dance, if you get self-conscious and focus on moving your body to look a certain way, you end up looking very silly. When you just connect with the rhythm and let your body move naturally, you end up looking great. A lot of people are already familiar with that principle of letting the energy move you, that concept is wu wei.
“Go with the flow” is the woo way to De. (Just a reminder, De is the act of bringing the Dao into being) Wu wei is a principle that centers on letting the Dao flow through you so you can De. If you but too much conscious effort into containing the Dao within you hoping to shape it to your will, you block the flow and De stops until your ego is out of the way.
The Dao isn't clay that you take and mold to fit your vision. The Dao is a river flowing through all things that pushes the ships we call our “me’s”(our “we’s”?) to theirs final destination. Can a the captain of a ship change the course of a river while he floats downstream?
That's the same reason you can't try to mold the Dao to your will.
That principle of allowing the Dao to flow, that is my understanding wu wei. Accepting what the Dao tells you to do and doing it. Like I said earlier, it was taught to me in relation to myself in my actions, but the logical implications cause the principal to extend outwards and include acceptance of external factors as well.
The Dao is everything; that means it flows through everything. If trying to change something about you or your actions to fit your will blocks the Dao, then trying to change something about the world around you or it's actions to fit your will does that same.
Just wanna give ole’ Wukong… sorry wu wei… a little more explanation because I’ve gotta make it as vague and confusing as possible to simplify shit a bit.
You ever played baseball? You ever swing an entire season and when you thought about the perfect swing and put intense mental control over your muscles you would strike out every time, but then one time you were just off in the clouds not thinkin’ about swingin’ at all ‘cause you’re at bat and you always strike out when you’re at bat then suddenly you snapped back to reality just in time to swing as a panic reaction without thinkin’ at all and somehow you hit a grand slam home run that won your team the championship game and suddenly you were a hometown hero till you died?
That’s was wu wei makin’ you do De all the way. Wu wei: Just act natural and go with the flow. Ezpz lemon squeezy.
Except not so ezpz and I don’t like lemon squeezys. You see how shitty that giant paragraph long run-on sentence looks without the structure provided by punctuation and formatting? Reading that sentence and understanding it was actually pretty tough wasn’t it? I know for me it is whenever I proofread this paper.
That’s cause wu wei isn’t the same as completely letting go and releasing all control. You hafta give yourself some level of discipline and structure to truly be one with the Dao, because the Dao has a bit of structure to it too. It’s tough and it takes practice to properly pull it off, but if you work, meditate, and practice you'll understand wu wei eventually.
(At least I hope so… I’m still trying to figure it out completely myself, and I promise someone out there familiar with Daoism feels least one of the details in my explanation needs correction)
The reason I find for myself to trust the Dao is because that it’s the only way I can make things work in my life. I play a lot of competitive online games, and that interpretation of wu wei I just gave is similar to something myself and other competitors in lots of different contests call “being in the zone”. Like I said, lots of natural overlap between Daoism and philosophies I had developed on my own.
If I fight the Dao, I fall flat on my fuggin’ face and end up makin’ my life shittier every goddamn time. Daoism with it’s very woo ways of focusing on humility is simply applicable to my life and conducive to my success.
Alright, now I got ya on the Dao and De (be and do), I hit ya with some wu wei, and I hopped up on my my pedestal and preached humility. Now there’s two other principles I wanna touch on a bit, but I’m gonna drift aimlessly for a while first cause it’s fun.
If Philosophies could be a pop-culture stereotypes, I think Daoism would be a stoned hippie. There’s two reasons for that. The first reason is that there’s an American “religion” that started as a joke pop-culture reference called “Dudeism” based on the amazing cult classic film by the Coen Brothers: “The Big Lebowski”
Dudeism’s whole thing is about being very dudelike just like The Dude, and The Dude is a stoned hippie. “The Dude abides” as they say.
I love this movie, it’s easily one of my top 5 favorites. It’s set in Los Angeles during the early 90’s at the start of the Gulf War. The film is a sarcastically cynical comedy about this slacker dude named Jeffrey Lebowski, but everybody knows him as”The Dude” and they use “Dude” as a proper noun when referring to him.
Unfortunately for The Dude, there’s another dude with the last name “Lebowski ”(The Big Lebowsky/TBL) who’s stupid rich and whose wife, Bunny, owes money all over town, including a known pornographer, Jackie Treehorn. Jackie sends thugs to rough up Lebowski in order to get his money off him, and they end up confusing him with The Dude, breaking into Dude’s apartment to rough him up a bit, and then pissing on Dude’s rug. At this point, Dude just wants his rug back ‘cause it really ties the room together, so he pays The Big Lebowski a visit to try and get compensated.
TBL is not too pleased with the request. He doesn’t feel he should be held responsible for every rug that’s micturated upon in the fine city of Los Angeles, and he doesn’t like how The Dude dressed for a meeting at TBL’s home office on a weekday.(Is today a weekday?)
He informs The Dude that the hippies had their revolution and they lost, tells him to get a job if he wants a rug, and kicks him out of his office. Oh ya, TBL is in a wheelchair and has a right hand man named Brandt do all his legwork.
The Dude is crafty, and knows Brandt didn’t hear what went on in the meeting, so he tells Brandt the old man said Dude could take any rug in the house.
Eventually, TBL’s wife Bunny is kidnapped for ransom, and TBL hires The Dude to help retrieve her. The real owner of the rug Dude took also ends up becoming complicating factor in a situation which involves lots of ins and lots of outs. There’s nilihists trying to cut off The Dude’s Johnson, professional private investigators, a stolen car, and an all-around wild ride that I could sit here quoting and telling you about all night, but I won’t. I wanna talk to you about The Dude instead.
Through all of that, The Dude stays cool. He just sips his white russians, smokes some pot, and goes where the trail leads him. He gets tense at moments, and has more than a few mishaps along the way. He still gets to where he was going in one piece, and in some ways ends up better off while in other ways he ends up worse off. He doesn’t let the good go to his head and he doesn’t let the bad get him down; “The Dude abides,” as the old Dudeist adage goes.
The Dude is definitely the Dao. The Dude is a stoned hippie. The Dao would be a stoned hippie. I think being a stoned hippie is dope af; I wish could be one but I’m too much of a dick. Did you see how I just straight blasted that guy for not liking star wars? That was undude af. I’m just a stoned asshole.
(Don’t be a stoned asshole guys. I try to be The Dude)
The other reason I say Daoism is a stoned hippie is that the last two central principles in Dowism (not an accepted alternate spelling) are frugalness and compassion. Frugalness, Compassion, and Humility are referred to as “The Three Treasures” in Daoism. Humility I covered already, the other two are pretty simple.
Frugalness is a way of sayin' don't super flashy and buyin’ up all kinds of fancy stuff for show. Just kinda, like, be chill with your money and only spend what you need for you to be happy.
This doesn’t mean live in a hut and eat straw, or deny yourself what you want. It means when you’re buying something, make sure it’s not over the top for the sake of appearances.
The concept of frugalness isn’t, “Don’t go to the fancy steakhouse 'cause it costs more money.” If you’re cravin’ steak from a fancy steakhouse, get the family together and go get some cow meat, but don’t order the 18oz steak then only eat 12.04 oz of it just so you can say, “Dude, I had a fuggin’ 18oz ribeye last week man it was huge,” to impress your friends. Get the 12 oz ribeye instead because that’s also delicious and it’s exactly the amount you need to satisfy your steak craving.
Now for the last of the Three Treasures: Compassion. I’ve got no right to preach about this one, cause I’m a horrendous uncaring monster. That’s just a fact.
Yes, I’ve recognized the error of my ways and the fact that I'm pushing for reform now is some reconciliation, but that doesn’t mean I get to absolve myself of what I’ve done or forget to remind myself what I am at heart.
My landlord, or “Jim” as nobody calls him ‘cause it’s not his name, is big on this compassion stuff. He has this whole spiel where he says, “Say I have a giant walk-in freezer stocked with a million dollars worth of shrimp and lobster. Eventually on a long enough timeline, that freezer’s compressor is gonna take a dump or something and all that food is gonna rot; even kept on ice it’ll go bad eventually.
How much of that seafood am I really gonna eat before it all goes to waste? Why not share with people who need it instead? Does it really matter if they “earned” it?
What sounds worse: Someone eating something they didn’t earn, or $100,000 thrown in a pile and lit on fire for nothing?
If someone eating something they didn’t earn sounds worse to you there, why is “earning” something so important? You’re not gonna teach an adult anything they don’t already know. A kid is gonna be taking their lessons from a parent, not from you. If a kid doesn’t have parents, you should have some compassion for the poor little tike and take him in if you can. ”(paraphrased)
He just does that whole speech word for word whenever anyone brings up Vladimir Putin, and if someone else doesn’t bring up Putin he’s gonna. Jim’s a good guy though, really generous and *compassionate*.(<-buried treasure)
Jim’s constantly going on about how Vladimir Putin has billions and billions of dollars while he lives off government money ‘cause he’s able to and keeps the poor from havin’ what they need in every way possible.
I totally agree with my landlord on this *right now* while I’m poor. When viewed from the eyes of the poor, that’s some monstrous unempathetic shit, but I see how Putin logically justifies it from his perspective without even hearing his justification.
I’m not defending Putin, I’m pointing out how my ASPD thinking works to subtly turn me into a monster by changing how I see the world. I know this isn’t an essay on ASPD, I’m doing it so you can understand why I’m talkin’ about Jim so much and why I gotta throw a DDJ quote to explain compassion and give you my interpretation.
I literally just pulled the very first parable I crossed that seemed to speak compassion to me:
“Heaven is long-enduring and earth continues long. The reason
why heaven and earth are able to endure and continue thus long is
because they do not live of, or for, themselves. This is how they are
able to continue and endure.
Therefore the sage puts his own person last, and yet it is found in
the foremost place; he treats his person as if it were foreign to him,
and yet that person is preserved. Is it not because he has no
personal and private ends, that therefore such ends are realised?”
For the first part, we need to set science aside a bit and look at it metaphorically. Still, I’m interpreting “Heaven” with the less mystical definition of “the heavens” or outer space.
Heaven and Earth have existed for incomprehensibly long amounts of time for us and will exist for longer after we’re gone. The reason for that is because they don’t exist by relishing in their individuality and serving their own needs. To me, this first part very clearly says live to help others.
In my interpretation, the second part says, “A sage makes himself his last priority yet finds himself taken care of first. He treats himself like a total stranger, yet he’s still taken care of and doesn’t die of starvation and such.” I think the question the parable is asking next would be something along the lines of, “Isn’t it because he sees no distinction between self and the outside world that such a thing can be possible?”
But yeah, Compassion; the last of the Three Treasures. Maybe all that extra money you’re savin’ up by Dein’ the damn thing and bein’ frugal, kick that shit to a homeless dude, who cares what he buys with it? Or donate to a food bank if you really wanna be that undude about how the guy you donate to is gonna spend it. You know the foodbank is legit. You can still keep the shit you need, but all that extra has to go somewhere right? Find any way you’re comfortable to spend it on somethin’ to help the world.
If you don’t got money, don’t worry, neither do I homie. You hang on to money ‘cause you don’t have enough and you gotta do what you gotta do to get by. You should try to give back and show love to the world some other way though, which is hard. I try to give back by writing.
I may not have currency, but I do have time and a skill I can use to spend it constructively. That’s most likely not gonna be your answer. I dunno your answer. The Dao does though; do your best to try and listen to it.
I wanna be able to say this essay is a good way to learn how to listen to the Dao so you can do a De by practicin’ wu wei the right way, but really it’s a vague and confusin’ piece of garbage. That’s probably cause, like I already told you, I don’t know shit homie; stop lookin’ to me expectin’ answers and find a few yourself.
(As a matter of fact, stop lookin’ to anyone or at anything with expectations completely)
My old friend Laozi taught me that. The Dao is an existence beyond our understanding, and doesn’t promise anyone anything. I’m fuzzy on what I remember but I remember very clearly the need to only expect nothing even though you will get whatever it is you need. The thing is, what you think you need may not be what you actually need. People here they will be provided for from quotes like the one I gave earlier, and *expect* that means they will always be well fed, sheltered, clothed, etc.
It may mean that, for certain people in certain places under certain conditions, but setting that as your expectation is telling the Dao what you want it to do; things don’t work that way. Expect that if you relax your expectations, relax your ego, and make yourself as small as possible the Dao will work through you. The Dao will provide what you and everything else are needed at any given moment and nothing more. If you thought you needed it, and you didn’t get it, then that means you didn’t really need it.
If you set getting what you believe you need as your expectation, you’ll end up in pain when that expectation is eventually let down. If you never get your hopes up, they can never be let down. Simple as that.
You can expect you’ll De if you wu wei though. You may not De the way you expect, but you’ll De. Remember the De and Dao are infinite, nameless, and transcend our level of understanding, and the mysteries will always remain as such for as long as we’re the finite creatures we’ll always be.
Expect that if you seek knowledge and wisdom, you'll find bits and pieces of them wherever you look. I don’t know what “right” is or even if what I’ve found are knowledge or wisdom; I know what I’ve found appears to work for me; go find what works for you.
Alright, so there's this Daoist symbol you've known all your life, but you don't know it's from the Dao Jia:
Yin-yang (aka "Duality") Yin is the shady guy; Yang is his sunny brother.
The yin-yang symbol is meant to represent the Dao. Obviously, that image isn't *actually* the Dao because containing everything in a single image like that is impossible. You can’t just whip out a smartphone and make a snapshot of the Dao like some kind of tourist backpacking around Europe. From what I've been told the yin-yang symbol is about as close as someone can get. Technically the symbol represents duality, but that's a bit of a misnomer because the duality is actually just one thing: The Eternal Everynothing.
The Dao creates existence by balancing the two forces it's comprised of, yin (darkness) and yang (anti-darkness). All of the following logically illogical dichotomies are manifestations of yin-yang:
Light/Dark, Good/Evil, Right/Wrong, Happy/Sad, Moral/Immoral, Existence/Nonexistence, Positive/Negative
Also, every other illogically logical dichotomy is yin-yang too. So is everything else because the yin-yang symbol is just a photograph of the Dao that some ancient Chinese dude took with his iPhone.
(Fuggin' tourists dude, I swear)
"Good” and “Evil" aren't real; everything is neutral.
Also, true neutrality doesn't exist because if it did the universe would stop existing since "The Dao" is really just the superexistence we've named nonexistence.
So to make sure everything stays nice and extant the way we like, yin and yang are constantly working in tandem to balance themselves to neutrality because the Dao depends on them doing so in order to exist.
Yin-yang = A concept that says all things are neutral.
"Good" and "Bad" are both the same thing, the Dao. We don't have the right to deem the Dao unacceptable or try changing the Dao into a thing our egos prefer. Accept all things as they are, because doing otherwise is imposing your will on the Dao.
Our egos are just characters we play. I'm not sayin' destroy your ego because your ego is also the Dao. I'm sayin' that if one side of the yin-yang duality or the other is hurting us, we need to change Ego, not the Dao. We're the only things we have any power over, so if we don't like something we gotta change ourselves instead of trying to change the thing we don't like.
Another way of wording yin-yang is "Be Humble" but I already put humility into one of the Three Sacred Lootboxes I berried in this essay. Understand? Good because I don't. Can you explain that nonsense to me? But don't use words! Words confuse me.
"The Dao that can be put into words is not The True Eternal Thing Named Nothing"
- Some Noverybody Who’s Every/No one
(aka Laozi... I think... it mighta been Fauxwoke... it gets hard to tell sometimes...)
The Yin doesn't versus The Yang; Dark doesn’t versus Light; Good doesn’t versus Evil; Tying 4 sentences together with 3 semicolons isn't grammatically correct. Even though they aren't all versusing, they still compete because that's how they keep themselves in check. None of that makes any fuggin' sense.
All of those things are yin-yang and they coexist and complement each other. They’re opposites but intrinsically linked in their foundations. The One can't exist without The Other. If you wipe out one, you wipe out both. They aren’t locked in constant combat, they’re forced to forever seek perfect balance.
(But also they are locked in constant combat because that's how they keep themselves in check)
"For every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction."
You can see yin-yang woven in the very fabric of existence everywhere you look. Sometimes western culture has trouble understanding that. Really I think most cultures do, but I only know western culture from first-hand experience, and I don't wanna talk about things I haven't experienced.
People want things to be pure. We want uninterrupted perfect "good". We all wanna achieve "Enlightenment" and wipe out "Ignorance". Use the light side of the force, not the dark side. The good guy always wins. If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say it at all. Make up something nice to stay to suppress all yin and turn the world into perfect pure yang. That attitude is actually the Creature Called Fauxwoke.
The problem with pure yang is life can’t exist like that. Imagine Earth with no ozone layer or ionosphere to keep out radiation. It’d be totally sterilized by the pure light of the sun. That’s pure yang; pure yin isn’t any better. Complete and total nothingness is all purity has to offer. Neither can become the Dao on its own. The duality NEEDS to be a dichotomy so it can come together and become the Dao.
Nondualism requires a duality first existing in order to have meaning. Otherwise, we'd all just be The Imaginary Nonexistent Superexistence Called Nonexistence.
Ying and Yan are working together to remain equal and in balance at all times by necessity whether you see it or not. If they fall out of balance, things will adjust until equilibrium is reached. That can be painful for some of the people losing something from that equalization.
(Yes that means life is suffering. Haven't you never read "Muh Boy Da Buddha"? Well you should click this line then)
The way you can avoid that type of pain from equalization is through the last Daoist principle I wanna talk to you about: Non-attachment.
The texts very often illustrate ways that being attached to things is ultimately the source of all our material and emotional distress. For example, I’m overly attached to my computer. If the motherboard were to fry, I’d be crushed. I would do everything I could in order to get money for a new one. I would suffer constantly with thoughts of how it’s broken on my mind until I had a pc so could play my video games and write again.
That attachment stems from the fact that I’m attached to writing and gaming as uses of my time, and won’t let myself lose them and find something else to do if the universe forces me to.
Now, all this is comin’ from a stoned mind, possibly to rationalize my attachments, but I think it’s impossible to become totally unattached. We’re all attached to our favorite things and most especially people we love. If we lose those attachments we’ll eventually attach to new things.
Similar to being attached to things and people, we can be attached to moments in time. I suspect when my time doing what I’m doing now has run out, when marching my pointless e-crusade has reached its conclusion, and I’ve typed the last sentence I was pushed here to type for you guys, I’ll hurt quite a bit and fight to hold on to that precious last fading second. That fighting to hold on to a point in the past won’t bring it back; fighting will only make it hurt worse. Our world is constantly moving from one point in time to the next, and unless you’re prepared to lose it all and begin again over at any second, you'll suffer greatly as I’m predicting I will.
I think there’s a yinyang effect happening here where too little is just as bad as too much, and really that teachings by Laozi and Zhuangzi based around avoiding attachment are really saying that you need to minimize attachment as much as possible. Only attach to the things that really matter so that those attachments can be stronger and make life healthier.
I also think it’s important that when one of those truly important attachments is broken, like loss of a loved one, you should mourn the loss in a healthy way but remember that loved one wants you to be happy so go be happy for them as quick as you can. When a strong love breaks your heart, the wisest course of action is learning to be happy without them and move on as soon as your heart will allow.
What I’m saying is, be prepared for your attachments to one day be broken, at least temporarily. Knowing those moments are coming and being prepared to lose what you’re attached to, or at least not be able to have it in your life for awhile, will help ease your suffering through those moments.
Again, all that stuff on non-attachment is just random thoughts generated while pondering Laozi and Zhuangzi. This whole essay was just my way of showin’ you my understanding of Daoism. I’ve read one book on it, and done some completely random meditation that rarely stayed on topic 10 minutes a day for 6 months.
I know a lot of what I’ve written here is wrong; it has to be. I’m just hoping some of it's right. If it's, you can be sure that the magical alien Jedi knight we sometimes call "The Dude who uses the Dao" used The Force to take control of my fingers and typed it for me. I am not a Jedi knight; I'm merely a dude and I'm often wrong.
That’s about all I got on you for Daoism.
Before you go, it makes sense to me if I leave you with the last parable from Laozi. Since this is a paper on Daoism, the last words being from a core Daoist book makes sense, after all. I’m not sure which of my copies is correct, so I’m going to give you both:
Sincere words are not fine; fine words are not sincere
Those who are skilled (in the Dao) do not dispute (about it)
The disputatious are not skilled in it
Those who know (the Dao) are not extensively learned
The extensively learned do not know it
The sage does not accumulate (for himself)
The more that he expends for others, the more does he possess of his own
The more that he gives to others, the more does he have himself
With all the sharpness of the Way of Heaven, it injures not
With all the doing in the way of the sage, he does not strive
The guiding Way is consistent, though indefinable; if lords and monarch could keep to it, everything would naturally be orderly.
Though orderly, if they craved action, I would calm them down with indefinable simplicity.
Indefinable simplicity is a means of avoiding disgrace.
Be serene by avoiding disgrace, and heaven and earth will right themselves.
(Oh yeah… shit. Can somebody go grab that Star Wars guy for me? I shouldn’t have flipped on him like that; he seemed cool. I’d get him myself but I’m trapped on this screen you’re readin’ me from. Tell him I said I’ll watch a movie of his choice or something... maybe.... if he wants to... but like… I dunno...
Just give him these copies of Laozi and Zhuangzi as an apology for me if you see him. Since I’m stuck in your screen you gotta click these links:
Here’s the link for Laozi’s super awesome book of parables, the Dao De Jing
Here’s the link for Zhuangzi, which doesn’t have a title because Master Zhuang used magic to transform himself into a book.
Tell him I’m sorry for not being dudelike. Padawans like me aren’t always so great at being the Dao…)