One of my favorite books is Herman Hesse's Siddhartha, the story of a young man in search of the ultimate truth or meaning of life. He becomes a wandering ascetic, but starving himself of all the world's pleasures doesn't bring him any closer to the truth, then he goes over to the opposite side and becomes a decadent hedonist, losing himself to a world of titillation and pleasure but that merely eats away his spirits and he becomes like the rest of the lost herd.
At the end he realizes that being nothing, doing nothing, just being - being empty, neither a practitioner nor a devotee, neither meditating nor reciting, just putting his ear to the river to blending in with the world, will he find his truth.
In Taoist philosophy, the river is a metaphor for life, never still, always changing. According to the natural order of things the river will always flow towards the sea. If we surrender life will carry us, wherever we want to go. The river's flow is yielding yet strong , with its ability to maneuver itself around all obstacles, its fluidity making it's path easier. It changes constantly to achieve its singular goal - that being to join the sea.
Yet I have always found myself opposing the river, maybe some of the disquietude in my soul can be blamed to not relinquishing myself to the the flow of things and letting things happen the way they are supposed to be. Maybe I try to find the quickest route and hurry and multi-task and get impatient for things to happen, for me to get the answers to all of life's riddles. Maybe I am stupid to be the angry wave, crashing and fighting against the gentle yet powerful river, going against the flow. Not allowing it time to carry me to the sea - swimming upstream for no reason - trying not to get enchanted by the shapes in the cave.
Maybe I should stop the struggle, do nothing, forget the journey and just swim along the decided sea, avoiding a different course. The calm of life's natural flow - invites me to surrender, to carry me, inviting me to trust it and let it make me forget. Yet how can I not know, how can I float blindly. How can I not want to to flee the cave and come back and take you with me?
The Taoist principle of Wu Wei , or the art of inaction says that if we do nothing, matters resolve themselves, essential to Wu Wei is avoidance of exerting pointless effort and contradicting nature. Abandoning tension to arrive at a quietude.
But if I stop asking won't I stop being? Am I vain to want to be - to be the one who goes out and comes back for the rest?