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:
In the transformation and growth of all things, every
bud and feature has its proper form. In this we have their gradual
maturing and decay, the constant flow of transformation and change.
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
Chinese civilization and the Chinese character would
have been utterly different if the book Lao Tzu [Tao
Te Ching] had never been written. In fact, even Confucianism,
the dominant system in Chinese history and thought, would not have been
the same, for like Buddhism, it has not escaped Taoist influence.
No one can hope to understand Chinese philosophy, religion, government,
art medicine--or even cooking--without a real appreciation of the profound
philosophy taught in this little book. It is true that, while Confucianism
emphasizes social order and an active life, Taoism concentrates on individual
life and tranquility, thus suggesting that Taoism plays a secondary role.
But, in reality, by opposing Confucian conformity with non-conformity and
Confucian worldliness with a transcendental spirit, Taoism is a severe
critic of Confucianism. In its doctrines on government, on cultivating
and preserving life, and on handling things, Taoism is fully the equal
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 Yes.
Getting 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.)