The circle of life

The Dao is not static or linear. It operates in a dynamic circular motion that governs the lives of all things, always bringing them back to their original starting point so that the process is carried out once again.

Just as night follows day, spring follows winter, summer follows spring, autumn follows summer, and winter follows autumn. In the same way, animals are born, grow into adulthood, and die – leaving their offspring to repeat the cycle. These are examples of the process of reversion, or returning to your original state.

The Dao doesn’t apply any force to make this process happen; it provides the conditions for it to take place of its own accord. It is thus soft and weak (弱) rather than hard and forceful – like the water of a stream that nurtures the people, animals, and plants living on its banks while slowly deepening its imprint on the surrounding landscape and perhaps even ultimately eroding it away.

This is the best example I can come up with to illustrate the meaning of the line “Gentleness is the function of the way.” Laozi believed that gentleness or weakness will always overcome strength in the end.

“Being” (有) refers to physical manifestations of the Dao such as animals, plants, and people, and could also be translated as “formed” or “shaped” or “being-within-form” and refers to animals, people, and other living things.

Conversely, “non-being” (無) refers to the abstract metaphysical forces within the Dao that we are unable to perceive, and could also be translated as “formless” or “shapeless” or “being-without-form”.

It is the dynamic interaction between “being” (有) and “non-being” (無) that enabled the creation of heaven and earth and sustains all the life on the planet. Something to think about over the weekend!

「反者,道之動,弱者,道之用,天下萬物生於有,有生於無。」
Reversion is the movement of the Way.
Weakness is the function of the Way.
All things in the world come from being;
Being comes from non-being.

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