The Dao of Letting Go (and Not Trying)
“Wu wei is an early Chinese term that means literally no doing or no trying,” says Edward Slingerland, author of the new critically acclaimed book about the power of spontaneity, Trying Not to Try. “But I think a better translation is effortless action. And it’s the central spiritual ideal for these early thinkers I look at: the Confucians and the Daoists."
How does one achieve wu wei? "It looks a little bit like flow or being in the zone as an athlete," explains Slingerland. "So you’re very effective. You’re moving through the world in a very efficient way--the social world and physical world. But you don’t have a sense of doing anything. You don’t have a sense of effort. You don’t have a sense of yourself as an agent. You kind of lose yourself in the activity you’re involved in.”
Success without effort? This of course sounds too good to be true. Trying Not to Try explores the ancient lessons of how to achieve this level of “flow,” or effortlessness. A key part of wu wei is the energy one gives off, which can increase the ability to influence others.
“You also have this power that the early Chinese call--unfortunately the Mandarin pronunciation is 'duh' which sounds kind of funny. But it’s often translated as virtue. It means like, charismatic power. Charismatic virtue,” says Slingerland. “It’s this energy you kick off, an aura that you kick off when you’re in a state of wu wei. And this is why these early thinkers want wu wei, because for both of them--the Confucians and the Daoists--it’s the key to political and spiritual success."
Wu wei means living an authentic life, letting spontaneity in. This can be a hard concept to grasp in today's fast-paced world. We're often too serious, too stressed as we strive to achieve our goals, leading to the all too common modern condition of burnout. Success, it turns out, can come more naturally, if we let go.
For more on Slingerland’s discussion on the productivity of not trying, watch a clip from Big Think’s interview and check out his new book Trying Not to Try.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
Great again? Why America stopped looking forward to the future
- Income inequality is dividing Americans.
- Wages haven't risen in 30 years, while prices for housing, schools, and basic goods has.
- Canny (and uncanny) politicians have learned how to milk the politics of fear by comparing the present to the past.
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