dao interval


green, red, wooden door with no lock in country setting

Seven geese pierce straight line over frigid
Intervals between them constantly
Pointed wings slash as if joined to an axle;
Today is the ideal moment between yesterday
and tomorrow.

Every morning means a fresh start on things. If yesterday was trying and exhausting, today is a given opportunity to do something different. If yesterday was full of triumph and satisfaction, today is a free chance to go further. All too often, we wake up, think of our schedules, and assume that we must act according to the same dull script. We need not. If we find what is unique to each day, we will have freshness and the greatest fulfillment possible.

Although we have talked about our relationship to Tao in terms of positioning and timing, the clear discerning of intervals is just as important. Geese keep a perfect distance between them to establish a dynamic equilibrium; so too must we fit in with the intervals of a day’s events. If we, like the geese, act in unison with these moments, with each other, and with the season, then we will be in total convert with Tao.

Today is poised between yesterday and tomorrow. What you may have started yesterday can be continued or interrupted today. What you want for tomorrow may be planted or destroyed today. Every morning is a new day. That observation is so simple as to seem trite. If we could observe the simple, there would be no need to study Tao.

365 Tao
daily meditations
Deng Ming-Dao (author)
ISBN 0-06-250223-9
tao hub
please help --> support
Country Door (part two of two set)
Nikon 42-86 Nikkor
© 1995 - 2005 lisbeth west

Dao analysis

Mozi depends on tiannature:sky in this context and he makes appealing to tiannature:sky more central to normative theorizing. Tiannature:sky is not "escapable" the way the edicts of a ruler or the conventions of a social group are. He also treats tiannature:sky as a solution to the twin problems because of its measurement-like operationality. The standard exemplified in tiannature:sky is the distinction between 利 害 li-haibenefit-harm (and the natural preference for libenefit). This step extends the apparatus of dao to natural inclinations. Any learning of a way presupposes some natural way—namely our capacity to acquire and follow it. So the idea of a tiannature:sky daoguide becomes important in ancient Chinese dao talk.

The Zhuangzi takes up the theme of daos depending on daos in the form of talk about dependency. Neither the Mohists nor the Zhuangists make a clear distinction between justification and motivation, reasons and causes. Tiannature:sky's operational standard is not evidence for the daos it leads us to choose, as much as a cosmic metaphor for our having a way to choose and follow daos. So we have daos of choosing and interpreting dao both built into identifiable discourse daos (like books of ceremonial ritual or existing conventions) and we have daos built into us as natural ways of acquiring, selecting and mastering socially generated discourse daos. In any normal dao-guided activity, much dao is presupposed (depended upon).

It is important to recognize that the Mohist doctrines, while giving us the language of analysis of daos, differ from Daoist analyses. The appeal to tiannature:sky daoguide and the ideal of a constant dao are Mohist innovations, not specifically Daoist doctrines (in fact, as I argue below, Daoist theory effectively critiques both notions). Mozi speaks of "constanting" (changconstant used as a verb) language (Mozi 80/46/37-8, 82/47/18) that is adequate to promote, pick out or restorexingbehavior. The idea if a changconstant daoguide goes together with the idea of a tiannature:sky daoguide --constancy being the salient feature of tiannature:sky and its operational, inescapable standards.

So we have ample basis for understanding talk of dao being everywhere, inescapable, incapable of being made fully explicit, even for understanding Zhuangzi's metaphor of humans being in dao as fish are in water. None of this talk requires that dao has changed its meaning. All the Mohist apparatus of normative analysis of dao applies to both the activity of interpreting a discourse into performance and evaluating a performance as a particular "walking" of a discourse dao. The language is also highly context specific, e.g., "choosing this and not that," interpreting in ways that "benefit." And finally his dao seems to place much more emphasis on the performance side since a test applied to the effect of performance determines what discourse dao is right. In some sense the real dao for Mozi is the way it works out in performance--which, via the standard for judgment (benefit-harm) brings nature into the discussion both as the operational standard and as the context in which success is achieved or not.

These are other themes developed in the Zhuangzi with the suggestion that the context is as much a part of any process of dao guidance as is the explicit discourse. In the course of any behavior, we presuppose other dao besides the one in view--dao of how to select a first order dao and dao of how to interpret it. The idea of devirtuosity in performance pulls in the dependence on context and criteria of success in real time. Clearly any act involves lots of dao (many daos) and they are likely to be intertwined in a "bloomin' buzzin confusion" -- not of experience, but of guidance. [24] This iteration of dao together with the individuation, blurring and the naturalness of summing to include context can even explain the talk of a holistic or single dao.

The Mohist analysis itself promoted this view of the unity of dao. The natural standard of benefit-harm is shared in every natural kind and everywhere--it is constant nature. The standard and context are set in constant nature and the ideal of finding a natural dao to guide all human action seems the solution that will yield an integrated constancy in human affairs. The ideal, however, quickly required adjustment to fit the complexity noticed in the natural world. Mohist utilitarian analysis put the emphasis on the results of actual performance and stimulated a trend toward emphasizing the uniqueness of situations of performance at the same time the universalized reasoning encouraged summing. Other moral thinkers, like Mencius and Yang Zhu followed suit (or influenced Mozi) in appealing to tiannature:sky's authority but tilted away from discourse toward a special intuition tuned to guiding concrete process. They still disagreed in their accounts of what behavior was dictated by natural standards—their answers ranging from Mozi's universal utility to Yang Zhu's egoism.

The move toward intuition was thus both a product and a betrayal of the Mohist ideal of a changconstant daoguide. The original goal was a formula or norm that could be a standard for choosing, reforming, etc. a constant discourse dao whose content will not have to vary with time or location. It also envisioned a discourse together with internal operational standards of interpretation into practice that were both unequivocal. Neither the content nor the interpretation should vary with schools of emphasis as the traditionalist Confucian dao did. Implicitly, the goal was to evade the normal play of intuition, but the emphasis on performance made special intuitionism the dao of choice--prior to Zhuangzi.

archived at

a reading list of books and interpretations of the Daodejing is available at

Join the daily Taoist meditations mailing list

email to:
See new designs & be first to hear about special sales
duckdaotsu RT

No comments: