Week 9 - The Miraculous Ship

Guiding Question: How can we act without acting?  How could this be applied to work?

    The image of a miraculous ship, which seems to move by itself floating around the world since the most ancient of days, is an image as well of effortless and eternal change achieved through integration into the flow of both time and events.  As such, the image is reminiscent of the Taoist concept of wu-wei, which meant literally "non-action."  But wu-wei did not mean retiring from oneís worldly duties, but rather harmonizing so closely in accordance with oneís nature that actions seems effortless.  Certainly Galahadís actions in the Quest could be seen as an example wu-wei.  He moves exactly in accord with his destiny, and, thus, is successful in everything he does.  In Taoism, wu-wei does not mean standing outside the changes of nature, for this would be like trying to stand still against the current of a stream.  Similarly, ceasing from our labors in an active world would surely produce conflict.  Rather we must sacrifice the misdirected actions of an independent and deluded ego, and take our lessons for human behavior from observations of nature herself:

    Fritjof Capra, in The Tao of Physics, points out the similarities of this emphasis of continuous change with the observations of Heraclitus who we first met in Week 1, and who wrote close to the same time as Lao Tsu, author of the Tao Te Ching.  Both also recognize nature's changes as cyclic.  Capraís book was written to show how science (particularly Quantum Physics) has come to recognize many Eastern concepts concerning nature as similar to this area of science.  In this sense, Western science has discovered that in order to keep advancing, it must move away from thinking of matter as static; as only moving when acted upon by a force. The new model is one of a more dynamic universe in which everything is constantly moving.
    The Taoist movement in China was indeed a similar reaction against the rigidity of Confucian philosophy.  Wing-Tsit Chan of Dartmouth College, in his introduction to A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, states:
      The Tao Te Ching was written as well as a guide for the decision-making of wise leaders.  It will be interesting to juxtapose its theme of correct conformity to nature through wu-wei with  readings from a book put out by Harvard Business School in 1991, Getting to YesGetting to Yes was written to promote a working alternative to the rigid ìpositionalî bargaining style which has tended to dominate corporate America.  We will use this text to help create a further bridge connecting the wisdom of the Tao Te Ching to modern everyday life.

Required Reading:  "Week 9" in the Study Guide; The Quest of the Holy Grail, pp. 207-221; Lao Tsu: Tao Te Ching (479-438 BC); Fisher, Ury, Patton: Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving in.

1) Choose a chapter/poem from the Tao Te Ching that seems particularly meaningful to you and copy it into your online journal.
2) Compare and contrast the management styles recommended in the Tao Te Ching and Getting to Yes.

(Note: Sections of the Study Guide for Week 9 are paraphrases or excerpts from a manuscript by Laurence L. Murphy and Dominick A. Iorio, both of whom are amongst the Authors of the general MAPS Curriculum.)

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Course Syllabus