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Wu Wei. My Way, or the Highway.

I am fascinated with the traditional Chinese philosophical approach of Wu Wei. This is dedicated to the two great scholars (and proponents) of Wu Wei, Dr. Edward Slingerland of the University of British Columbia and the late Lin Yutang. Since Mr. Lin is no longer with us, I would nominate Dr. Slingerland as the scholar of Chinese philosophy with whom I would most like to have a beer. We could cook on the grill and discuss the Confucian virtues and the poetry of Li Po. The Chinese poet Li Po is wonderful, but very addictive. His poetry strongly attracts one's attention, a phenomenon that I suppose you could call "Li Po Suction." I couldn't help making that pun. Sorry! I had my friends Matthew Sola, Richard Semiatin, and Kevin Kotara in mind when I made that (horrible) pun.

About Li Po

If you come to my house,

You will see a hand-painted sign with the Chinese Characters

Wu Wei

And I also have a paper with those characters taped to the door of my study.

Wu Wei

Is a simple Chinese philosophical principle

That requires very complicated definitions, unfortunately.

It is so simple, that I find it hard to describe!

Defining wu wei is very un-wu-wei.

It is the second cousin once removed to my grandmother’s statement

“Things have a funny way of working themselves out."

But the basic idea is that if one cultivates interior harmony

And an attitude of thoughtful, detached reflection

One can choose to do great things

By strategically doing nothing.

The idea is that

If you yourself are in peaceful equilibrium

Things will find their equilibrium without your action.

But you must cultivate peace within yourself.

Wu wei is not mere idleness or laziness.

It is not indifference or fatalism.

It is a kind of cultivated, thoughtful, and engaged detachment

It does not preclude caring

In fact, the decision to do nothing

Requires contemplation and reflection.

In order to contemplate and reflect, one has to care.

But wu wei means that you perceive

That all things have a balance

Even you

And if you cultivate your own garden

It can bear fruit elsewhere.

Perhaps removing the weeds from my own garden

Will improve the gardens around me without my effort.

You will find that it takes great effort

To do a meaningful nothing.

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