Dao

Dao
#1
Dao
Let's discuss some Primary-ish sources.

道德经 (The Way and Its Power)

There's multiple translations, and hover-over for individual characters - but since it's super ancient, there's a ton of interpretation involved. Still, it's interesting!

It could be worthwhile working through each of the 81 portions at a time - maybe one each week. Then we will have it done by a year.

The Lau translation has been pretty reliable in the past, so I'll be copy-pasting it here.

The Way and Its Power 1 Wrote:The way that can be spoken of
Is not the constant way;
The name that can be named
Is not the constant name.

The nameless was the beginning of heaven and earth;
The named was the mother of the myriad creatures.

Hence always rid yourself of desires in order to observe its secrets;
But always allow yourself to have desires in order to observe its manifestations.

These two are the same
But diverge in name as they issue forth.
Being the same they are called mysteries,
Mystery upon mystery -
The gateway of the manifold secrets.

The opener of the text.

I feel that it sets the foundation that the Dao is that of change and flux - reflected in that adage, "The only constant is change, (and that, too, changes)."

There's a bit of zen in the third block - but, it can be also viewed as "don't go looking for the Dao - if you go looking for it, you won't find it."
Insofar as desire is that want to seek the Dao. Since the core is a sort of "simple action" or even "action without doing."

This eschewing of category and names and pouring of all into mysteries, I feel, is what is being expressed here.
Quote
#2
RE: Dao
While such paradoxical statements are commonly associated with Eastern philosophy, plenty such are to be found in Western (or Western-familiar) writings, which is why we have a Scary Greek Word™ (homoiousia anathema! schism dogma catalepsis ouzo) for it in the first place. I fear a lot of people are simply ignorant of simple rhetorical devices and said writings, and so inundated in a world run on deductive logic (without which a machine will not operate) that they are too ready to accept as a contradiction things that are dialectical or inductive in nature (without which you probably should not decide what to put in a machine or how). But there are worse errors in thought than that, probably more commonly running in the opposite direction.

Interesting to reflect that the Stoics, more in the rationalist camp than Laozi, talked much of shifting one’s desire/inclination (orexis) to things that are virtuous, in harmony with nature, for the common good, limited to what is within your power only (which they stressed is pretty much just your thinking but gives you a handle on your habits or accepting a situation), and so forth to have the greatest mastery of the world possible and (their idea of) happiness (which modern students note that their old rivals the Epicureans/hedonists came to something similar from the opposite angle). There are of course differences between Stoicism and Zen and Dao, even as there are some differences in attitudes between Laozi and Zhuangzi. For instance, Stoics didn’t hesitate to put names on a limited number of ideas they thought should be really solid, even as Aristotle or Plato might have liked to see proper names on basically everything; all those really wanted to see things “as they are” but had different ideas of what that means. I do want to one day re-read certain many of these authors from a different mindset than I had the first time around being forced to look at selected excerpts in high school (and throw in a first look at Mozi, who I was taught lumped in with the Daoists but looking into it now, that seems to have been quite inapt), and look afresh at the many thinkers I may never have the time for. On an aside, I will say this much: even reading the preface of Epictetus’ Discourses by his student was rather touching and in the spirit of the text itself, which is not what you expect from the (popular and self-) caricature of the Stoic as someone who does not feel.

I don’t really know why I look into philosophy at the level I do without having a serious knack for it. A lazy thinker could chalk it up to my direct descent from a prominent Neo-Confucian fundamentalist. I, however, being no less lazy a thinker mind you, view it as a thing I do to procrastinate. If I catch the drift of Zhuangzi and sometimes the Stoic way of thinking, though, there is often an (explicit) usefulness in (apparent) uselessness, if only you are willing and able to find it. After all, the Stoa (porch) in ancient Athens was also kinda just a place these guys hung out to shoot the breeze. Philosophy often comes to the theme that it is itself both a waste of time and one of the most important things you can ever do; this is no contradiction, but as economists had to rediscover and clarify the concept as “marginal utility”, sometimes you have enough of something and sometimes you don’t, changing the value drastically.

In short: what an interesting passage to return to, at a time like this.
sea had swallowed all. A lazy curtain of dust was wafting out to sea
Quote