My Brother, the (accidental) Taoist
July 9, 2012 § 3 Comments
On rare occasions, my brother makes a good point. In this case, a damned good point at that. Who knew that what he’d been telling me all along was so incredibly enlightened as to have its own ancient tradition?
I’m talking about the Taoist principle Wu-Wei.
I came across a list of book recommendations on optimism, positive psychology and the like, the other day. Since I had heard of the title before, I got my hands on a copy of a book called The Tao of Pooh (just so you know, I considered calling this post The Tao of Pao). It’s a short book that explains the principles of Taoism through Winnie The Pooh and vice versa. Pooh, as anyone who’s ever read/watched him, is a self-confessed Bear of Little Brain, from whom there are a million lessons to be learned.
Chapter 6, entitled The Pooh Way is about, you guessed it, Wu-Wei. Literally, it translates to the action of non-action. Taken out of context, the meaning fails to come intuitively, so let me try to explain using a few excerpts from the book
“Just how do you do it, Pooh?”
“Do what?” asked Pooh.
“Become so Effortless.”
“I don’t do much of anything,” he said.
“But all those things of yours get done.”
“They just sort of happen,” he said.
“It means that Tao doesn’t force or interfere with things, but lets them work in their own way, to produce results naturally. Then whatever needs to be done is done.”
I’ve always been a worrier. Sometimes I think I was worrying in the womb. Heck, this blog was born out of worrying about what to do after college. In contrast, Paolo’s always been the more relaxed one. I’ve always said that between our two year age gap, gender difference, and general stress levels, he’ll outlive me, easy. Sure, it would be easy to interpret his laid-back demeanour as sloth, maybe as indifference, even, but his track record says otherwise. He always jokes that he’s the smarter cookie between the two of us since he doesn’t really study for anything and he’s passed every single class he’s taken. (Mostly) TRUE. I’ve always envied the simplicity of his life. While my mind is churning with so much thought that it’s debilitating, I suspect you’d hear crickets or whistling if you listened in on him…which I’ve always envied.
This is not to say, however, that he is a simpleton. He is far from it; he’s intelligent and deep, and makes me proud when we have conversations about relationships and the future. Sometimes, he can be downright wise. Since I read about Wu-Wei, I realize the code he’s been living by isn’t emptiness or laziness. It’s about letting nature takes its course – like water flowing the course of a river. He’s been Wu-Weing things all this time (yes, pardon the made up verb)!
Substitute his name for Wu-Wei, and you get the general picture –
“Wu Wei doesn’t try. It doesn’t think about it. It just does it. And when it does, it doesn’t appear to do much of anything. But Things Get Done.”
Last semester, I decided to apply the Pao Way to my exams. He made it clear that his way didn’t mean for me NOT to study. It was imperative that I did. The key was to stop worrying about it after I’d done it. So I did. Results came back…..and they were all good. And NOW I SEE THE LIGHT.
All in all, this (call it whatever you want: Pooh’s Way, Pao’s Way, the Tao Way) seems like the healthier way to live. Certainly, the happier way to live.
“When you work with Wu Wei, you have no real accidents. Things may get a little Odd at times, but they work out. You don’t have to try very hard to make them work out; you just let them.”
“Those who do things by the Pooh Way find this sort of thing happening to them all the time. It’s hard to explain, except by example, but it works.
Things just happen in the right way, at the right time. At least they do when you let them, when you work with circumstances instead of saying, “This isn’t supposed to be happening this way,” and trying hard to make it happen some other way. If you’re in tune with The Way Things Work, then they work the way they need to, no matter what you may think about it at the time. later on, you can look back and say, “Oh, now I understand. That had to happen so that those could happen, and those had to happen in order for this to happen….” Then you realize that even if you’d tried to make it all turn out perfectly, you couldn’t have done better, and if you’d really tried, you would have made a mess of the whole thing.”
It’s about learning stillness and finding peace, of trying your best but not getting eaten up with worry. It’s about having faith – that things WILL turn out for the best.
“One of the most convenient things about this Sensitivity to Circumstances is that you don’t have to make so many difficult decisions. Instead, you can let them make themselves.”
At this time in my life, of uncertainty and change, of transitions, of endings and beginnings, I think I’m starting to find the answer to (most of) my questions.
Pre-reading The Tao of Pooh, and in Layman’s terms, here’s a video of how my brother taught me the Tao of Pao —