So, I’ve been pondering. About how you make things happen; about whether you should make things happen, come to that. Recently a lot of people have been talking (or not talking) about determination; about force of will; about how you have to have total utter single-minded determination if you want to achieve something.
‘You can achieve anything,’ one of the somebodys said. ‘You just have to be totally determined.’ Which is fine – to a point. I mean, I was watching a snippet on TV about sports psychology and how athletes have to focus entirely on themselves as that is the only part they can possibly influence. It goes back to that ‘what is your business?’ question, right?
‘And if you’re up against something much, much bigger than yourself?’ I said. ‘What about if you’re up against something vast and complicated?’
‘You have to figure out the important players,’ she said firmly. ‘And then work out precisely how to influence them.’
And that, of course, is how politics works.
Which brings one into the consideration of ethics. What if what you want conflicts with other people’s needs and desires? Then what? Is it ethical, is it right to push your determination out there? To barrage your will? Personally I don’t think so.
And often, you know, it can backfire. I may have told you this story before but it bears repeating. My mother, many years ago, wanted a house. She really really really wanted it. So much. It was her dream – a beautiful peaceful place in the countryside.
So she fought, tooth and nail. She coerced, she influenced, she schemed, she plotted, she cajoled. At one point, when it wasn’t going well and it looked like all her plans might fall to dust, she cast the I Ching (we were that kind of family). The hexagram talked of the concept of wu wei. ‘It means I shouldn’t push so hard, I guess,’ she said. Then she sighed, shrugged and started pushing a bit harder.
Do we ever listen to oracles? *smile*
She got the house. It was beautiful. She loved it and was very happy there. But… to cut a long and depressing story short, that place ended up wrecking my parents’ business and bankrupting my father. They lost the house. They lost everything, in fact, and fetched up in a rented flat above a shop.
And Mum turned to me one day and said, ‘You remember when I did the I Ching? I should have listened to it, shouldn’t I? Wu wei, eh?’
Consequences. It’s why the whole ‘cosmic ordering’ thingy bothers me. As if you can just turn up your eyes to the universe and say, ‘I want this. I deserve this. I choose this. Gimme!’ and sod everything else that might have to readjust itself for you to get your way. It’s kinda childlike in a bit of a greedy grasping way somehow. And do we ever really know what is best for us? We may think we know but hey, be careful what you wish for, as the saying goes.
But. Then again, I do believe thought is creative. I do feel that we influence our world (yes, even the physical world) by our thoughts and beliefs. But that maybe it calls, not for bloody-minded determination but rather for a sort of quiet inner conviction, an alignment of oneself with what should be. For if one is totally congruent, completely sure and certain (in a quiet inner way) then maybe things just change, all of their own accord.
Is it wu wei? Sort of. Wu wei is commonly translated as lack of action, non-action, not doing. But I don’t feel total passivity is quite right. Cos, let’s face it, you won’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket. And you won’t write a bestseller if you don’t start typing. Yes, you can meander around the 'If it's meant, it will happen' cycle of thought patterns but, well, I still think you need to get off your butt a bit. So I prefer the alternative translation of ‘effortless action’ – so you do act, but in a natural, fluid, organic way. It’s an inner alchemy maybe…
Or...‘It’s dancing,’ I said to the somebody, trying to explain my feeling and failing dismally. ‘It’s not barging; it’s not pushing and bludgeoning. It’s… surfing, maybe. Finding the right wave and riding it, rather than swimming against the current.’ Or not getting on the surf board in the first place.
She looked doubtful.
Ach, I dunno. I can feel it but words fail when describing it. What do you feel?