Interview with a Daoist …BY A FAIRLY CLUELESS REPORTER WRITTEN BORROWING HEAVILY FROM: BENTLEY, JERRY H. AND HERBERT F. ZIEGLER. TRADITIONS AND ENCOUNTERS: A GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE ON THE PAST. BOSTON: MCGRAW HILL. 2008. 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 others. 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 balance. 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 resources. 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.