Monday, November 28, 2005

The Way of Things

I spent the last few days in the library reading the Tao Te Ching. It's one of the few religious books that I strangely understood without a lot of explanation. The same can not be said for the Bible, and the Book of Mormon is at times a great soporific. (I know Mark Twain felt the same way and a lot of people who aren't Mormons and some Mormons themselves have this particular problem with the book.) Of course, I'm sure the author would be glad had he heard this, although he might not take the news so well that I needed it translated into English, a language that did not exist when he first wrote the book.

The book itself is full of things that seem to be contradictions on the surface, and I'll take the time to examine one of them. One of the principles throughout the book is to "do without doing." The one footnote I saw said this did not translate exactly into English and therefore could not be an exact concept. However, not being a scholar of any ancient language (four years of Latin just doesn't count, I'm afraid), I still believe this should be translated as "do without trying." This itself seems to be another contradiction, but it is a similar process to what many writers use. I know if I try too hard to write an article for this blog, the overall quality suffers as a result. If I merely write and let the words flow from my pen, little effort is required on my part and things just come out in the end. Of course, there's the editing process which I've been lax on of late, but that is something different. Ray Bradbury in his book Zen and the Art of Writing advocates a similar process of work, relax and don't think.

And believe it or not, the scene with Yoda and Luke Skywalker in The empire Strikes Back can be accepted on a different level in addition to the more literal English meaning that is also correct that when it comes down to it, you either fail or succeed regardless of how hard you try. I think instead that Yoda was trying to tell him that he tried too hard to do something, rather than just taking a little effort and making it happen. By the too great effort, too many variables entered Luke's mind including the weight of the starfighter. In fact, he almost succeeds with his eyes closed and all he is thinking about is lifting it out of the water.

So give it a try sometime. Do something without really trying. For creative efforts, you might be really surprised at the results.


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