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  • After reading Taoist texts, I walked away with the impression that everything can be

  • achieved through /Wu Wei/.

  • Wu Wei is literally translated asnot-doing”, “non-action”, orinaction”.

  • So when taken at face value, this seems to suggest that you can accomplish everything

  • by doing nothing.

  • That doesn't make much sense obviously.

  • So Wu Wei is often translated more loosely aseffortless actionorunforced

  • action”, but I prefer the termsincere action”.

  • Everything, in my opinion, is achieved through sincere action.

  • To fully explore what that means, let's start with a thought experiment.

  • Imagine that you woke up in a small sailboat.

  • An ocean filled with thousands of other boats surrounds you, and there's no land in sight.

  • What do you do?

  • Do you follow the majority?

  • You should stay with the majority,” a man says to you.

  • There's great strength in numbers, and strength will get us to land.”

  • Or do you follow the minority?

  • Pssstyou should stick with us,” a woman whispers.

  • Large groups are full of fighting.

  • We'll move faster as a minority, and speed will get us to land.”

  • Or perhaps you open your sails and let the wind and current take you wherever they lead.

  • /There's no reason to follow anyone else/, you think.

  • /No one here actually knows the way to land, and even if they did, I can't verify it

  • for myself.

  • What could they know that I don't?

  • What knowledge do they have that I couldn't get myself?

  • There is noshould”.

  • I'll do what seems right to me in each moment./

  • Allowing the winds and currents to carry you along is Wu Wei, or in my words, “sincere

  • action”.

  • In the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, in the entry on Daoism, it says, “To act

  • without wei is to remove the social, conceptual character from our behavior and act on 'natural'

  • instinct or intuition.”

  • So in my understanding, to act without wei is to act without anyshoulds”.

  • There's no “I should do thisor “I should do that”.

  • There's no outer authority to follow blindly.

  • There's onlythis seems best to me based on my current knowledge and experience.”

  • So how does sincere action lead one to achieve everything?

  • To start, our actions arise from our understanding of the world.

  • So right actions depend on right understanding.

  • But obviously our understanding of the world is flawed and incomplete.

  • So what's more important than understanding?

  • Learning.

  • We want our understanding to improve over time, and sincerity is necessary for learning.

  • Let me explain.

  • Learning is a natural process that occurs when a human is /involved/ in the world.

  • I'm using the term /involved/ in a very specific way here.

  • /Involvement/ has two conditions: sincerity and feedback.

  • Sincerity is when you act genuinely, in a way that seems best to you, in a way that's

  • not dependent on external authority.

  • When you act sincerely, there's no one else to point the finger at.

  • All you can say is, “that's what I wanted.”

  • Feedback is when you're not sheltered from the consequences of your actions, for better

  • or worse.

  • Let's look at some practical examples.

  • Think about how easily you learn the mechanics of a video game.

  • Why is that the case?

  • Two reasons.

  • First, you're sincere in wanting to play and figure the game out.

  • Second, the game gives you feedback on your actions, allowing you to adjust your actions

  • and learn the game.

  • So when sincerity and feedback exist, learning occurs naturally.

  • Now think about the last time you crammed for a test.

  • Maybe you weren't that into the course.

  • So there was no sincerity in your studying.

  • You studied because you felt you should to get a good job or please your parents.

  • But you used flashcards to study, so there was feedback.

  • What happens when you have feedback without sincerity?

  • Basic memorization.

  • Intellectualization.

  • You may have memorized the facts for a test, but how long was it until you forgot them?

  • Feedback without sincerity doesn't lead to true learning.

  • Now think about a summer, perhaps when you were younger, where you spent your time doing

  • nothing but playing games and eating junk food.

  • You might say, “Well that's what I would do again if I was really acting sincerely.

  • I would just play games and eat junk.

  • But I have to make myself do other things if I want to succeed.”

  • The problem here is not sincerity.

  • The problem here is a lack of real world feedback.

  • Someone who's sheltered from the consequences of playing video games and eating junk food

  • never learns to not do those activities because there's no real consequences for their actions.

  • So sincerity without feedback results in no learning.

  • So right action comes from right understanding.

  • Right understanding comes from learning.

  • Learning comes from involvement in the world.

  • Involvement comes from sincere action and feedback.

  • And to act sincerely is to live without wei or, in other words, to live Wu Wei.

  • And to live Wu Wei, is to allow the winds and currents to take you, and so bydoing

  • nothing”, you accomplish everything.

  • As always, this is just my opinion and understanding of the Taoist concept of Wu Wei, not advice.

  • Feel free to use this information however you like, and if you have a different take

  • on Wu Wei, I'd love to hear your perspective in

  • the comments.

After reading Taoist texts, I walked away with the impression that everything can be

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B1 wei sincerity wu feedback sincere understanding

Lao Tzu - "Do Nothing", Achieve Everything

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    Summer posted on 2021/10/15
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