Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Derivations on a Theme - It Ain't Easy

Over at Annastao Blog, she filed a post today that utilized a comment I had made on a previous post, in part, about goals and procrastination. I wrote,
Maybe the problem of procrastination is born of having “goals” in the first place. As I delve deeper and deeper into the Chuang Tzu, I’m beginning to understand his main thesis better: anything that involves the ego is what holds us back.

Developing goals with the rational mind creates immediate stress and tension. Is this goal realistic? Is it on the right path? Am I moving too swiftly or slowly? Will I even know when I’ve reached it?

By having no goals — meeting life head on in each moment — anything is possible. Goals, on the other hand, set up parameters which inhibits the natural flow of life.
In today's post, she wrote, "I totally get what is being said, but I don’t know how to apply it." For me, this represents the key difference between philosophy and practice.

When delving into the great mysteries of life, philosophers are able to draw out metaphors that are distilled in great thoughts and ideas. We look at these concepts or ideas and shout, "Eureka! That's it!" These thoughts resonate with us at the deepest level. It's like uncovering a great truth or discovering a path previously shrouded by the jungle.

But once the euphoria of discovery wears off, we're often perplexed exactly HOW to apply this new insight to our lives. It seems to make such perfect sense in the abstract. We can see the path marked clearly in theoretical constructs, but when we try to move the constructs to real life situations, the guideposts along the path magically seem to disappear!

I'm beginning to think that the difference in the two situations again has to do with the ego. When the ego is dampened or jettisoned from the equation -- when we are moved by great inspiration or insight -- there are no barriers and we see things clearly. However, when we try to apply the wisdom to our lives, the ego jumps back into control and barriers shoot up like weeds.

Like Anna, I often have great difficulty applying Taoist principles to my everyday life. I want to flow like a river, yet my life more often resembles a clogged storm drain!


  1. This commentary, and "In the Here and Now," (ironically, made in the past) are so poignant in regard to something I am struggling with in a work situation, trying to understand and explain something that happened a month ago, that people involved in can't even remember accurately. It is VERY easy to be all wu wei and goal-less and natural when you are just living your own life; it is social obligations (work, family, government, whatever) that complicate a this kind of life. You can learn to work around your own ego (oh, to be a hermit), but I think the drain gets clogged by the obligations of society. This is where Confucius entered the picture.

  2. I think that's a very astute point! As social creatures, we have a lot of social obligations that, as you aptly point out, make navigating life problematic (as well as enriching).

  3. And to put it another way, from a different perspective that comes to the same conclusion, "L'enfer, c'est les autres." (Hell is other people, Sartre.)

    But thanks for reminding me of the "enriching" part; in the heat of hell, sometimes we forget that.

  4. I think if the great thinkers of the Tao were to see the way we live they would weep. This social obligations we have in life, promotes the hampster wheel of slavery.

    I have a hard time with action by no action. I am so wrapped up in my book projects I get lost. I am agrivated when I am not able to work on these projects.

    I find when I do this it creates so much diharmony in my family life. When I am able to practice desireless the harmony returns.

    Rambling have you ever thought about writing a book? I bow down to your superior writing skills.

  5. Tim,
    I do have a book, but I didn't publish it. I don't plan on doing any more books. Whatever I write will appear here for free. If it resonates with readers like you and others, that's all the payment I need.

    Each one of us has innate strengths. One of mine is writing. Art, on the other hand, is not. I couldn't draw my way out of a paper bag if my life depended on it. ;-)

    So, I write.


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