23 Apr

wu wei: non-doing isn’t doing nothing

Recently I’ve been studying the Taoist concept of Wu Wei. I’m neither a Taoist scholar nor can I even pretend to know much about Taoism outside of what I can remember from Tao of Pooh, but this concept has combined with some similar concepts that have been circling and sticking in my mind.

Wu wei literally translates to non-doing, also expressed as non-action, and it’s a way of behaving naturally and without overly-controlling situations or trying to force things to happen. The non-doing doesn’t mean “do nothing” because wu wei is tied to acting, behaving, and doing, but acting, behaving, and doing in a manner in which you don’t get in your own way.

I’m an anxious, big-dreamer, over-achiever transitioning from college into the “real” working world and into an even “realer” living situation that’s (to me) far from ideal. I’m trying to become the best, most creative writer I can be. I’m trying to become a successful author. I’m trying to make enough money to move out and still support my family in whatever way I can. I’m trying to become the best version of myself in my professional roles. I’m trying to get bigger and stronger.

I try to redirect my life path in ways that would allow me to reach these grandiose goals overnight.

I feel myself forcing things to happen. I try to will them into being and existence. I get nervous and self-loathe if I decide to listen to music for a while instead of editing my writing. I try to pre-plan my plans. I get mad at myself for preferring x instead of preferring y, or doing a instead of choosing to do after reading how b is a way to get what I’m after.

I’m slowly trying to put wu wei into practice, as simply reading about it is not enough. I’m listening to my mind, my heart, and my body a bit more closely. I’m trying to feel out what the natural flow is. I’m trying to harmonize with the world. I’m trying my best to not get in my own way.

Reddit user nationcrafting wrote a great explanation for wu wei on r/taoism

“Wu wei is what a piano player does when he has practiced and understood a piece so well that his hands can play the piece without his mind having to think about it.

What’s more, at this point, he understands that thinking about playing puts a block on the performance, so he gets himself, his thinking ego, out of the way and just plays. You could never ‘think’ your way through playing a piece by, say, Rachmaninov: you’d be far too slow, and you’d probably make quite a few mistakes.”

I relate to this with my 15ish years playing baseball. The games in which I did my best were the games I stopped consciously trying to do well and just let myself play. I would let my muscle memory, my practice, and my talents take over and I would wind up doing supremely better than I would when I had a running internal monologue attempting to guide me.

This sentiment is reiterated by nationcrafting

“Now, some people interpret this as a kind of ‘just go with the flow’ attitude to life. This is somewhat misleading. There is indeed a flow, but it takes a lot of discipline and hard work to get into it. The piano player doesn’t ‘just do it’ from day one, he spends many years training and working to get there. Once he has done that training, he can ‘just do it’, much in the same way that you ‘just do it’ when you breathe, when you beat your heart, when you walk or drive a car, without ‘acting’.”

I’m attempting to do this more in life. Let my years of living, my years of previous work, previous readings, writing, editing, conversations, learning, sights, sounds, smells, tastes, my talents, my scars, the total sum of all my success, failures, and experiences drive me instead of whatever domineering ego mentality decides to pop out of nowhere and take the wheel.

Wherever the natural Tyler goes is wherever the natural Tyler goes. Giving up control is scary, because I don’t want the natural Tyler to buy a one-way plane ticket to Egypt with no return plan and no idea of what to do when he lands. I don’t want to unravel, and lose steam chasing my dreams. But I have faith this won’t happen. I will continue to pay attention to the inner and outer worlds, to heed the advice of more experienced people I respect, to consume the creative work of my peers and the trailblazers who made their marks before me. I will continue to prod myself to get better and better and to reach into deeper and weirder wells of expression.

Because wu wei isn’t about doing nothing, it’s about non-doing.


Readings related to this thinking:

Trying Not to Try: How to Cultivate the Paradoxical Art of Spontaneity Through the Chinese Concept of Wu-Wei (via Brainpickings)

Fingerspitzengefühl (via Chris Lamb)

Let Go of Control: How to Learn the Art of Surrender (via Tiny Buddha)

07 Apr

The Primal is Alien

Bask nude in view
Summer sun beats
I stand atop fresh kill
Lion blood-stains on mane
Thanks to me maniac with sharp stick
Grunt away sun
Need scratch wild hair down there

I turn, see woman dressed like me with more cloth
She stands at edge of cave with head bow
She won’t look direct in eye

My cave now

I drag jungle king carcass to cave
The mountain mouth gape
Eyes fixate other throbbing hole

She grabs arm
Swollen from mammoth chase
Father’s tusks cared much
We lay next to fire
We lay on dirt
We drool, bite arms, scream, moan
We do thirteen times done

We sit
I hear wolf howl
Slaughters silence, but I slaughter too

Drums outside
I beat chest
Breast moves up down
Shoulder bumps back forth

I cry
I break edge of cave with fist
It crack crumble collapse
Fire go out
Belly fire burn bright

From The Bronze Age

04 Apr


From The Bronze Age

What a way to remember
We’re subjected to the weather
It’s unreasonably warm
For a Thursday
In December

Today is 60 degrees
And dry
Tomorrow’s wetter

Today I need a Tee
The next I need a sweater

Do seasons still exist?
They might’ve come untethered

Or is there something better
Perhaps a weaker, week by week measure

Soon we’ll be buried underwater
With fins instead of feathers
On a forever after
Atlantis-like adventure

29 Mar

Garamond Font Uses Less Ink, Costs Less Money to Print

14-year-old Suvir Mirchandani conducted an analysis for his school’s science fair and found that Garamond font requires the least amount of ink when printed on paper, saving big time on ink costs.

First of all, it’s pretty cool how some kids can transcend my conception of science fairs as places for foam trifolds about space and clumpy baking soda and vinegar volcanoes into something that is a genuine outlet for helpful, scientific thought and study.

Second of all, this brings to mind my cognitive dissonance about releasing paperback books when digital publishing is a reasonably environmentally-friendly alternative. I don’t like using paper. I don’t like killing trees to transfer information. Those beautiful things take our wasted breaths and give us the fuel for new ones. They provide us shade. They make everything more green and pleasant. They’re our elders and have much wisdom to share with us if we could stop cutting them down and sitting on their trunks.

But there’s still something magical about having a physical book in your hands when you read. It’s a relaxing, reflective experience. Also, having ONE THING TO CONCENTRATE ON is an experience that’s becoming inexpressibly valuable in an era when we divide our attention across tabs, screens, and sites. I still decide to release paperback books. I’m probably only making a significant dent in the paper supply if I sell hundreds of thousands of copies anyway, which also gives me a nice excuse if I don’t sell well: it’s a conservation effort.

The paperback version of Hool was printed in Garamond and The Bronze Age will be too. So at least I’m saving on ink even if I’m not saving paper, or saving as many trees as I’d like.

27 Mar

Words of the Day Poem: Spoof and Plash

Poof I pass into
Scenes synthesized spoofs of real things
Things mixes of off-handed comments and lingering unsolved problems
Problems that pale in comparison to the stoic reactions to a flash flood apocalypse
As I plash around underwater without gills but still breathing

spoof \ spoof \
1. A light, good-humored imitation; parody.
2. A hoax or a prank.
verb tr.
1. To satirize gently.
2. To fool using a hoax or a prank.

plash \ plash \
1. a gentle splash.
2. a pool or puddle.
1. to splash gently.