Excellence Reporter: Dian, what is the meaning of life?
Dian Duchin Reed: Meaning is not something we add to life; instead, how we live our life is what gives it meaning. As the ancient Chinese sage Laozi saw it, we would be better off if we practiced subtraction:
Every day you walk the path,
you subtract something.
Subtract and keep subtracting
in order to let things
go their own way.
Leave things alone;
don’t impose meaning.
In his book (Dao De Jing), when Laozi refers to the path (or dao), he means not only the effortless action of the right path through life, but also the mysterious source of all life. Of course, the very first thing he tells his readers is that the dao cannot really be described:
A path that can take you places
is not a continuing path.
A name that can describe things
is not an eternal description.
There’s no way to describe
the beginning of the universe.
Description is the source of all things.
What’s more, the less we worry about doing the right thing, the easier it is to do it. What is right for each of us is in our very nature. For this reason, daoism (the art of following the path) is all about effortless action:
No need to go out the door
to be mindful of the world.
No need to peer through windows
to see the right way to act.
The more you go out, remote and distant,
the more you know what’s missing.
That’s why those in the know
don’t go anywhere but remain aware
of what’s not visible, yet apparent.
Not seeing, they perceive.
Not making things happen,
they get results.
~Award-winning author Dian Duchin Reed has been a student of the Dao De Jing and practitioner of taiji quan for over three decades. She has studied Chinese, traveled through China, and is a member of the Center for Daoist Thought and Fellowship. Her new book, translated from the Chinese, is Dao De Jing: Laozi’s Timeless Wisdom (Humanitas Press, 2016).
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