Daily Tao / 334 – Dipper


Bamboo dipper, granite basin.
Crust of ice over inky reservoir.
Moon shimmers in the dipper
Until fullness drains away.

Some people are like dippers. No matter what they try to gather up, it ends up flowing out again. For such people it is exceedingly difficult to accumulate anything in life.

If you are like the dipper, that is all the more reason to concentrate the resources that you have. Poverty of any kind need not be a deterrent if you know how to utilize the wealth you possess. You must embrace your fate, work with it, and take advantage of it.

Ultimately, we cannot truly grasp anything permanently in life. We are born naked, we die naked, and in point of fact we live naked. What we take to us — our clothes, our wealth, our relationships — are all external to us. They are easily taken away from us by bruising fate.

We try to internalize our experiences and our understanding. Even that can be taken away by stress, senility, poor memory, disorganized thinking, drugs, or shock. Truly, we are all dippers. The little that life offers us dribbles away.

Perhaps even the poorest of situations is rich, because all the futility of life leads us to embrace Tao. After all, it is bigger than all infinities and more subtle than the slightest wisp. To feel it requires great strength. To sense it requires a dragonfly’s delicacy. When you tire of trying to hold on to life, you will find the means to enter Tao.

Daily Tao / 333 – Donkey


Dismount your donkey at the summit.

Some places in this world are very hard to climb, and people use animals. Each person can only ride one, and each animal might have a different name. The riders go up the trail in different orders, and they discuss their varying opinions about their experiences. They may even have conflicting opinions : One traveler may think the trip thrilling, another may find it terrifying, and a third may find it banal.

At the summit all the travelers stand in the same place. Each of them has the same chance to view the same vistas. The donkeys are put to rest and graze; they are not needed anymore.

We all travel the path of Tao. The donkeys are the various doctrines that each of us embraces. What does it matter which doctrine we embrace as long as it leads us to the summit? Your donkey might be a Zen donkey, mine might be a Tao donkey. There are Christian, Islamic, Jewish, and even Agnostic donkeys. All lead to the same place. Why poke fun at others over the name of their donkey? Aren’t you riding one yourself?

We should put aside both the donkeys and our interim experiences once we arrive at the summit. Whether we climbed in suffering or joy is immaterial; we are there. All religions have different names for the ways of getting to the holy summit. Once we reach the summit, we no longer need names, and we can experience all things directly.

The Dirty Secret of ‘Discounts’—Black Friday and Beyond – WSJ.com

The common assumption is that retailers stock up on goods and then mark down the ones that don\’t sell, taking a hit to their profits. But that isn\’t typically how it plays out. Instead, big retailers work backward with their suppliers to set starting prices that, after all the markdowns, will yield the profit margins they want.

via The Dirty Secret of ‘Discounts’—Black Friday and Beyond – WSJ.com.

Daily Tao / 332 – Dovetail


“Measure twice, cut once,” said the old craftsman.
Only careful planning and patient skill make a dovetail.

Early cabinetmakers were faced with the problem of joining two pieces of wood together at a right angle so that they would bear the stress not only of use but of the weather as well. Especially in places where the summers are hot and humid and the winters are dry and cold, a plank of wood might change its dimensions by a quarter- to a half-inch. Quite enough to make joints fall apart and drawers stick!

The dovetail joint holds because the two interlocked pieces of wood expand and contract at the same rate. The direction of the pull is against the locking of the joint. The byproduct of all this fine craft is a joint so precisely fitted that it is a thing of beauty in and of itself.

Cutting a dovetail joint is a demanding skill. The lines must be laid out with great care, and the cutting must be carefully done using a thin saw. The waste must be slowly trimmed away with a sharp chisel until both sides mate tightly. The making of a dovetail joint requires planning, skill, and patience.

Nowadays, cheap synthetic materials do not breathe with the seasons. That might reduce inconvenience, but it has also reduced the chance for another relationship to Tao. For when the cabinetmakers sought to build furniture that was compatible with the wood, the seasons, and their own ingenuity, they were perfectly in tune with Tao.

Daily Tao / 331 – Sieve


A coarse sieve catches little.
A fine mesh catches more.
If you want the subtle, be refined,
But prepare to deal with the coarse.

The irony of spiritual living is that you become more sensitive and more subtle. Therefore, you become intolerant of the coarse. There is not much choice in this. If you want to catch the subtle things in life, then you must become refined yourself. But the coarser things will then accumulate all the more quickly. A coarse sieve in a rushing stream will hold back only debris and large rocks. A fine mesh will catch smaller things, but it will also retain the large.

Some people attempt to cope with this by becoming multilayered. They set up a series of screens to their personalities, from the coarse to the subtle so that they can deal with all that life has to offer. This is quite laudable from an ordinary point of view, but from the point of view of Tao, it is a great deal of bother.

What do we do? If we remain coarse, then only the coarse comes to us. If we become subtle, then we gain the refined but are plagued with the coarse as well. If we become multilayered, then we create a complexity that isolates us from Tao.

The solution lies in floating on the current of Tao, uniting with it. That way we no longer seek to hold or to reject.

Daily Tao / 330 – Sense


Don’t be destroyed by knowledge and power.
Use common sense to survive.

There were once four learned and accomplished men. One day they said to themselves, “Of what use is all our learning if we do not seek the employment of a great king?” Accordingly, they set out for the capital.

Now among these four, three were particularly brilliant. The fourth was far inferior to the others in intellect, but he was the one with the most sense.

On the road, they came upon the skeleton of a lion. “Let us bring this lion back to life,” proposed the first. “Yes, this will bring us great fame,” agreed the second and third. The fourth one said, “If you bring this lion back to life, he will attack and devour you.”

“Don’t interrupt!” cried the first, who already used his superior knowledge to put flesh on the bones. The second quickly introduced blood, and the third was about to breathe life into the lion.

“We should think of safety,” said the fourth.

“Quiet!” said the third from the depths of his labor.

“Well, then, I shall go sit in this tree,” said the fourth. “Just in case.”

The lion came back to life and killed the wise men. The only one who survived was the man with common sense.