Monday, May 17, 2010

Real Life Tao - Forks in the Road

So many of us seem to have a penchant for creating dichotomies -- two black and white choices from which to choose from. I suppose this ubiquitous problem arises because it's easier to choose from two things as opposed to a wide open field. It's also easier to blame fate, your partner, god, the weather or any number of other talismans when the choice chosen turns out to be the wrong one.

But as Lao Tzu reminds us again and again, life is filled with the ten thousand things. Every situation and circumstance we face can lead to numerous possibilities. Life really isn't about coming face-to-face with a fork in the road; it's more a daily exercise in which everything we say, think and do involves coming nose-to-nose with many diverse forks.

Why did I choose face-to-face, in the first instance and nose-to-nose, in the second instance? I could have chosen completely different phrases with different imagery. Choices, choices.

Imagine, if you will, a world in which we only faced two options for every question. When thirsty, grog or prune juice? When hungry, sweet potato pie or liver and onions? When wanting to watch television, Home Shopping Network or the Disney Channel? When buying a car, a Yugo or a Cadillac? When naming our newborn baby daughter, Phoebe or Zelda? When choosing a religion/belief system, Rastafarianism or Sikhism?

Of course, we all know that, in each area cited above, there are scads of choices. In fact, some provide so many choices that it can make your head spin!

So, knowing that there are a multitude of options, why do we so often -- when faced with the BIG decisions in life -- boil everything down to this or that? Left or right? Forward or backward? Friend or foe?

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


  1. This is an interesting observation. While I don't often find myself creating the dichotomies, I do often find myself choosing something between the two distinct choices someone else has laid out.

    I always considered it my "ability to compromise" but hadn't thought much about what drove the other person to create the dichotomy in the first place.

    What do you think drives this? You implied it's because it's easier to choose when there are only 2 choices, but I wonder if it's also because people have preconceived notions of what is the right answer, so they create their version of the "right answer" and a clear-cut negative and opposite "wrong answer."

    The beauty of studying Tao is that I'm not as interested in wrong and right, but instead in understanding why people do what they do.

  2. i think there are patterns of duality inherent in nature, but it's very limiting to only recognize singularity or duality. human beings can not see the whole spectrum of light but we can at least acknowledge what we do see, and acknowledge the fact that we can't see everything!


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