Chapter 2 – The Wu-Wei Way
When the people of the world know beauty as beauty,
There arises the recognition of ugliness.
When they all know good as good,
There arises the recognition of evil.
Being and non-being produce each other;
Difficult and easy complete each other;
Long and short contrast each other;
High and low distinguish each other;
Sound and voice harmonize with each other;
Front and back follow each other.
Therefore the sage manages affairs without action (wu-wei)
And spreads doctrines without words.
All things arise and he does not turn away from them.
He produces them but does not take possession of them.
He acts but does not rely on his own ability.
He accomplishes his task but does not claim credit for it.
It is precisely because he does not claim credit
That his accomplishment remains with him.
This chapter again reminds us that our mind exists to make distinctions. However, those distinctions are not as real as it would have us believe. Rather than being opposites, high and low, short and long, front and back are really complements.
One classic example to illustrate the concept is that of a magnet. If you begin with a bar magnet, it has two poles, one of which is clearly positive and the other clearly negative. If you cut that bar in half, two magnets will be produced, each with a positive and negative pole. Cut each of those and there are four magnets with positive and negative poles. No matter how small the magnet becomes, it will always have two poles. And that’s just the way it is.
Perhaps that is what wu-wei is, also – just the way it is. Continue reading