Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Real Life Tao - Without Fanfare

One of the themes of the Tao Te Ching that is really hard for many to put into practice is this idea of not seeking recognition or fanfare for our good works. We live in a world that often encourages, nay, requires a strong measure of accolades AND self-promotion to get ahead. The person who stays in the background stands a better than average chance of not being the shining star at school or the employee who snags the coveted promotion. So this Taoist principle seems to beat odds with our modern society.

Of course, Lao Tzu might counsel us that being the star student or employee is not half as much as it's cracked up to be. When we gain these types of accolades and rewards, we tend to do so by meeting other people's expectations. Often times, we don't really even give a hoot about such expectations ourselves, yet we do the needed work to ensure a fatter paycheck or to get our name on the honor roll.

As I've mentioned in this space before, for all my own idiosyncrasies and foibles, the rampant desire to stand out has not been one of them. For example, if I wanted to be a star blogger with thousands of followers, I could have chosen dozens of other focus topics instead of philosophical Taoism! By choosing to concentrate on this arcane subject -- in terms of western society -- I've all but guaranteed that I will never crack the top 10,000 list of blogs. I'm not losing any sleep over it either!

I've also discussed -- influenced by my social avoidance disorder and Asperger's Syndrome -- that my chief volunteer activity in the community is washing dishes for events at the United Church of Raymond. Such events could not be carried out without someone to wash dishes, but such volunteers rarely receive any recognition whatsoever (which is fine by me). No, the cooks, organizers and sponsors are the ones asked to come out to take a bow.

I don't deserve a pat on the back for my penchant for taking on the type of assignments that are so needed, yet rarely noticed. As mentioned above, I seek these kinds of tasks out due to my peculiar personality traits. But there are scores of people who don't have this type of avoidance issue who, like me, take on the needed background roles. They are the ones that should be honored. They are the ones who make this world a better place to live.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.


  1. I think Gandhi made a similar point over the toilet cleaners in parliament. How could parliament operate with filthy facilities that no one could use? Each role was as important, not higher or lower. In fact the caste system was a horizontal line displaying just that fact - we all do different tasks to make the system work - but somehow, Oh human nature, it became the hierarchy we see everywhere now.

  2. Was just studying Tao Te Ching 2 this morning, about doing our work without taking credit or expecting praise. I think we just want to contribute a bit of sanity and peace to the world, and don't really expect to be thanked for it. ;^)

  3. Work without praise is almost the entire theme to the Bhagavad Gita.

    Working without lust of result. It comes over slightly differently in the Tao as it does in Hinduism but is a reemerging and important theme to both :)


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