17 May 2017
“Waiting is a Skill”
I’ve traveled the world far and wide, scaling every mountain and crossing every sea in search of knowledge and wisdom, and, unfortunately, have found no answers to my questions. Until I read Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. Ever since taking AP World History, Daoist ideals have always fascinated me. Let’s face it, life is stressful, even as a young grasshopper. Providing a totally different perspective of daily life than similar philosophical works, Tao Te Ching encourages us to slow down, “go with the flow,” and view life patiently rather than striking quickly at every opportunity.
“If you try to change it, you will ruin it. If you try to hold on to it, you will lose it.” (Tzu 29)
To express my thoughts more accurately, I used the giant jenga scene from the show Big Bang Theory as well as a quote from the novel. The photo depicts a massive, seemingly unstable jenga tower and two of the characters with excited expressions. The tense atmosphere of the photo reflects and extends the message of the quote, where both characters seek to move around the jenga blocks without the whole tower collapsing. One message the picture conveys to extend the meaning of the quote is the concept that one little thing can cause the collapse of everything. Using the jenga block metaphor where one wrong pull can break the whole tower, I have found that life is actually very similar. It’s the smaller actions that build up to eventually materialize the larger impacts and one’s future. If one tries to change themselves rather than accepting and coping with their problems, they’ll only become more insecure. Meanwhile, if they try to hold on to the regrets of the past, they’ll only sink deeper and prevent themselves from progressing. A quote from the show explains one of the core messages of the novel well. “My point is, while you're spending all this time on your own, building computers or practicing your cello, what you're really doing is becoming interesting. When people finally do notice you, they're gonna find someone a lot cooler than they thought. And for those of you that were popular in high school, it's over, sorry.” -Leonard. Before advancing, one needs to “master themselves” and work towards self improvement. When they’ve honed their strengths and coped with their weaknesses rather than changing how they are, life becomes simpler and one comes closer to being enlightened.
On the other hand, the quote’s reflective nature aids in extending the photo’s idea of perfection. Building off from the ideas of earlier, life is measured in risks and rewards. In the metaphor of the jenga tower, the goal of the game is to alter the tower by removing and stacking blocks without setting it off balance and losing it. This theme can be related back to the nature of daily life. Individuals in society seek to find work and obtain money with the end goal of rising up the ranks and the social classes. However, when someone takes a heavy risk, like heavy business investments or quitting a job, one’s life can be toppled easily, negating all that hard work they endured to reach that position. Thus, like a jenga tower, life should be approached carefully. One needs to consider the weight of their actions and responsibilities and how these consequences will influence their future.
One more idea that Tao Te Ching really emphasizes is the idea of patience.“To speak little is natural / Therefore a gale does not blow a whole morning / Nor does a downpour last a whole day.” (Tzu 23). A Daoist ideal that was brought up multiple times that I liked is the concept of “stop resisting.” In the context of the quote, it is better to wait for the rain to stop rather than fighting through it. In daily life, when one is able to think things through and analyze their situation rather than acting on instinct, then problems can be solved way easier. It’s kind of like a fight with my parents. I know that they’re trying their best to help me, yet I still seem to resist their opinions and go with my own. If only I opened up and thought about what they said, then I would definitely be in a better position than I am now.
After all of this, it’s safe to say that Tao Te Ching was definitely my favorite novel of the year. Structured as a collection of poems, Lao Tzu creatively conveys his ideas with a large variety of metaphors, especially ones about nature. Though it was written a very long time ago, its messages still stand strong in today’s modern society. I would recommend that everyone of all ages should give it a read. Thank you for reading this blog, leave your opinions in the comments!