Interview with a Daoist

Interview with
a Daoist
So how do you guys hope to end the Period of the
Warring States?
 We don’t. We Daoists think it’s impossible. The
problems are much too large. It is “pointless to waste
time and energy on problems that [defy] solution.”
(Bentley and Ziegler 186)
That is, unless the people want to change.
So we should do nothing?
 Yes, but we’ll get to that….
If we devote our energies not to war and advancement,
but to introspection (looking at ourselves) and
understanding the ways of nature, we can live in
harmony with natural priciples.
So, like, you’re hippies.
 Well, kind of. Over time – perhaps a long time –
understanding nature and its unchangeable forces
will allow us to live in harmony with these forces.
This could bring harmony to society as a whole, as
people stop meddling in affairs they can neither
understand or control.
What the heck does that mean?
 OK. First you have to understand this thing called
The Dao. hard to explain, but it is the way of the
world. It is all around us, and controls nature. One
cannot stop it. For instance, water is considered
softer than rock, yet over time a stream washes away
an entire mountain through erosion. Even the richest
and most powerful man dies and turns to dust. It
cannot be stopped, so trying to change it or control
nature is sheer folly.
OK, nature always wins, but what should I do
with that information?
 You should live your life in balance with nature. This
means never striving for anything. Activity, striving
and ambition lead to war, conflict and misery. People
striving for wealth, fame, or other glory has not
solved social and political problems. The only way to
happiness is to desire less and to live in as simple a
manner as possible. The Native Americans’ simple
lives would never have caused global warming that
may doom us all.
So I should just be a slacker?
 You make it sound so negative! Who is happier: the
stressed-out businessman trudging to work or the
man enjoying the sunrise? What is the point of
chasing power and wealth if you do not have time to
enjoy it?
Won’t I starve to death if I don’t work?
 We do not say “Do absolutely nothing.” One should
work if he or she must, but by wuwei, or “inaction”
we mean not to strive for anything more than what is
absolutely necessary. Do not compete. Do not
compare yourself to others in envy. Live simply in
balance with nature and do not create problems for
What if I like working and studying? And why shouldn’t I try
to make my life comfortable and my family rich?
 You are forgetting the yinyang pictured below. No
action can be truly good or bad. For every winner
there must be a loser. For every steak you eat there’s
a cow that suffered. Air conditioners contribute to
global warming. Inaction (wuwei) is the only way to
live in harmony with the Dao and not to create
misery for others. The competition for resources you
seem to desire by your question puts life out of
But what you describe sounds so boring!
 Perhaps. But if people accepted and lived in harmony
with the Dao, perhaps mankind would not be putting
itself on the brink of extinction through
overpopulation, climate change, and depletion of
Wouldn’t it be impossible to be a Daoist in the
current day and age?
 It would be indeed be difficult, perhaps impossible.
But what if one incorporated Daoist principles into
his or her daily life? Wouldn’t you rather be out
enjoying the autumn sunshine than studying for a
chemistry test? Live simply, so that others may live.
Do not upset the Dao and take more than your share.
Do not create problems for others. Many of us try to
be Confucians by day, Daoists by night.