Saturday, February 19, 2005

Do Nothing Man of Tao

by AJ/Skald

"The Master does nothing, yet nothing remains undone."
--Lao Tzu

I love this idea of being (in Kerouac's words) a "do nothing man of Tao". American culture, and increasingly, world culture-- is all about doing. People are scurrying around doing, doing, doing. They fill every waking moment with some sort of activity-- be it work, watching TV, reading, exercise, etc. Few people take time to observe, to listen, to contemplate.

Doing nothing is one of my favorite activities and one I frequently indulge in. I love to sit in a coffee shop and just watch the world... tune in to the sounds and conversations... watch the trees sway in the breeze... quiet the mind. Many call this laziness. My response is, "what's wrong with laziness?" Inspired laziness is a spiritual art form.

And besides, all that running around is a form of laziness too. Sogyal Rinpoche called it "active laziness"... keeping oneself busy to avoid the difficult work of contemplation and self-knowledge. A lot of people are scared to fucking death to be alone with their thoughts. They are terrified of quiet, of loneliness, of themselves... though they would never admit it. Better to run in circles than to examine their lives. Is it any wonder that so many are stuck in hateful jobs, boring routines, dead marriages, meaningless activities. Is it any wonder that so many reek of desperation? Is it any wonder that alcoholism is so rampant?

Tremendous things can be accomplished by those who follow their bliss-- but the prerequisite for that is first FINDING it. Joseph Campbell believed that every adult should take 3-5 years to loaf and wander. He wandered out to California, lived in a cabin, and read books. Thoreau likewise retreated to a cabin. Many embark on grand journeys of discovery. The point is that you must leave the comfort of routine... the conditioning of society and parents... and strike out on your own: take a few years to just ask questions: "What is my purpose?". "What is the nature of life and existence?". "What brings me bliss?"... "What is my particular genius?".... "What do I want my legacy to be?".

"Who & what, exactly, am 'I'?"

These are vital questions... deep questions. Shouldn't we take a few years of our lives to engage them? Shouldn't we attempt to find our own answers for them... before we swallow the cliches provided by "society"?

Great things can be accomplished by those following their bliss. Yes! But the first step is to do nothing.


Anonymous said...

Well said. Following bliss...that just about says it all. That's what I'm doing pretty soon. I'll put on my pack, take that final step out the door of my human zoo cage, and follow my bliss on foot wherever whim takes me, all over North America. And it won't be for just 3 or 5 years, but much longer - if I can keep it up. Only 3 short months to go! I admit being lazy is wondrous too. A long time ago in my wageslave days I'd rather chew on dead cockroaches than admit to enjoying lazing and loafing around, but not anymore! The world needs more laziness, more people loafing around watching the little puffy clouds float overhead...before we collectively work ourselves and the planet to death!!

AJ said...


Can't wait to hear about your wandering adventures! Do your best to send an update to Hobopoet now and then. Inspire us!

Gambatte (Go for it)!

Anonymous said...

Great find! Just discovered your blog via Tom Peter's (noted your comment about India on a rah-rah China post).

Don't forget Buckminster Fuller in your list of folks taking time off. After a nixed suicide attempt, he decided to take two years off in silence and purge everything he'd learned to discover things for himself.

I also took nearly three years off myself, it didn't start off as intentional (I was a CTO of a venture-backed startup in 2000, you can guess where the story heads...) BEST incredible unexplainable thing I've ever done.

Evelyn Rodriguez

AJ said...

Evelyn... yes, those unexpected breaks can be very rewarding if used well. And Buckminster Fuller is yet another great example. It really is vital to take that time to do nothing... to discover your genius and bliss.