The You confronts me. But I enter into a direct relationship to it. Thus the relationship is at once being chosen and choosing, passive and active. For an action of the whole being does away with all partial actions and thus also with all sensations of action (which depend entirely on the limited nature of actions)–and hence it comes to resemble passivity.
This is the activity of the human being who has become whole: it has been called not-doing, for nothing particular, nothing partial is at work in man and thus nothing of him intrudes into the world. It is the whole human being, closed in its wholeness, at rest in his wholeness, that is active here, as the human being has become an active whole. When one has achieved steadfastness in this state, one is able to venture forth toward the supreme encounter. Martin Buber, I and Thou
There is much confusion about the Daoist term wu wei and what it means in our lives. I often hear it explained as “go with the flow.” This doesn’t really get it. There is an implied passivity in that interpretation that renders us as driftwood buffeted by the tide. There is so much more to it than this. And less too.
Let’s take a look. The following Wiki entry is a good start:
Wu may be translated as not have or without; Wei may be translated as do, act, serve as, govern or effort. The literal meaning of Wu Wei is “without action”, “without effort”, or “without control”, and is often included in the paradox wei wu wei: “action without action” or “effortless doing”. The practice of wu wei and the efficacy of wei wu wei are fundamental tenets in Chinese thought and have been mostly emphasized by the Taoist school. The aim of wu wei is to achieve a state of perfect equilibrium, or alignment with the Tao, and, as a result, obtain an irresistible form of “soft and invisible” power.
Wei wu wei is “do/not do” or “doing based in non-doing.” Most people get the “non-doing” part and figure it’s the same as “Let go. Let God.” Or “que sera sera.” The logical conclusion then is to give up one’s own intentions and “surrender.” In some situations this attitude may be desirable (12 step programs, for instance), but it is not a prescription for everyone.
The alchemy of wu wei REQUIRES that we DO as well as NOT do. Daoist thought is “both/and”, not “either/or.” Wu wei needs your will, your intention, your action. “Trust Allah, but first tether your camel.
It is in the meeting of our finite Wholeness with the Infinite Wholeness of What Is where experience subsides for the moment and that moment becomes the Eternal Now. In the encounter, the separation that is part of “experiencing” is replaced by resonance with the action. To the observer this appears as effortless competence, mastery. To the one in wu wei it is the most natural thing in the world.
This is the activity of the human being who has become whole: it has been called not-doing, for nothing particular, nothing partial is at work in man and thus nothing of him intrudes into the world.