dao balance


sleek lines of a car gone obsolete

Summer withered grass to flaxen yellow,
Scorched leaves to brittle paper,
Dried lakes to cracked clay.
Chill autumn brought little relief—
Only frosted the devastation.
But with the early gentle rains,
The earth’s fissures softened
And dessicated plants began to dissolve.
Slowly, balance comes once again.

Many cultures describe old people as having seen many winters. Those elders have seen many cycles come and go, and their wisdom comes from long observation of life’s rising and falling.

If we have a long-range view, then we realize that equilibrium comes in the course of nature’s progression. Nature does not achieve balance by keeping to one level. Rather, elements and seasons alternate with one another in succession. Balance, as defined by Tao, is not stasis but a dynamic process of many overlapping alternations; even if some phases seem wildly excessive, they are balanced by others.

Everything has its place. Everything has its season. As events turn, balance is to know what is here, what is coming, and how to be in perfect harmony with it. Then one attains a state of sublimity that cannot be challenged.

365 Tao
daily meditations
Deng Ming-Dao (author)
ISBN 0-06-250223-9

tao hub
Leica m3 90mm Zeiss
© 1993 - 2005 lisbeth west


It's hard to avoid some version of a type-token analysis, however, if we concentrate on the problem of metaphysical individuation. Let us agree not to seek a definitive answer to how we should individuate daos. That will simply be another sense in which we will not seek an "orthodox" metaphysics of dao. We can still draw some interesting observations about the complexity Chinese thinkers encountered when they considered issues about the nature of dao.

To focus our issue, consider the use of example, or what Munro calls “model emulation”[19] in Confucianism. Take Confucius in the act of rectifying names. He simply uses language correctly. The rectify names passage ends:

Thus when an exemplary person uses a name, it can surely be spoken, and when spoken it can surely be acted upon. There is nothing careless in the attitude of the exemplary person to what is said.[20]

The guidance that allows us to rectify names has the metaphysical status of an action (which we may analyze as a series of events, as a process and so forth). It is a bit of the world—a concrete speech act. It's in the world as much as a road is. However, it is intended as a guide—e.g. for our use of the word. When I “follow” the junzi’s example, I extrapolate or interpret to my different situation of action. The junzi uses the proper term to speak to someone younger, I fail to follow his example if I use the same term of that same person. The relation of that concrete particular and my action is interpretively like the relation between a play and performance, instruction and action. (This corresponds to Wittgenstein's point about pointing.)

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