Causing through uncausing, action through inaction, such are the tenants of the ancient eastern arts of Taoism (Daoism, Dowism) and Wu Wei. Literally translated, Wu Wei means “without exertion,” going with the flow of the natural state of the world. Though the concept first appeared alongside Confucianism, the elemental truths of Wu Wei soon fund their place among the followers of an emerging philosophical ethos known as Taoism. Central to the practice of the Tao is the belief of passive action, causing through uncausing. That is not to say that those who adhere to the convictions of the Tao are purposely lazy, they simply allow themselves to drift with the natural ebb and flow of nature. Those who follow the teachings of Wu Wei follow what is natural, and by flowing what is natural, they follow the Tao.
It is within nature that the Tao and Wu Wei finds its true roots (pun intended.) It is the beauty and perfection of that which is imperfect, that which is “mundane,” that which is “basic” in form or function. Where one may see dullness, those attuned to the Tao will see the panicle of beauty. The babbling brook, clear as crystal, a river stone, aged and smooth, and a wooded path, lovingly worn from years of tread. It is in this peace, this Zen, this natural flow of the world at work that beauty in the natural world can be seen. As described by author Allen Watts, the Tao is the watercourse way, Wu Wei, true harmony. It is from nature one can draw a plethora of metaphorical lessons. From the Tao Te Ching, Taoism’s most holy text, comes this passage:
“Under heaven nothing is more soft and yielding than water.
Yet for attacking the solid and strong, nothing is better;
It has no equal.
The weak can overcome the strong;
The supple can overcome the stiff.
Under heaven everyone knows this,
Yet no one puts it into practice.”
It is through this careful, diligent study of nature that followers of the tenants of Taoism and Wu Wei can attain all the lessons of life for which one could ever ask. Wander the forest path, sit by the crystal stream, and take in the world. It is in the Tao, in Wu Wei, in the natural beauty of the world, with all its flaws and imperfections, that one can find wisdom and harmony.