The Dao of Driving

The Tao gives birth to One Lane. One Lane gives birth to Two Lanes. Two Lanes giveswoman-driver-lipstick birth to Three Lanes. Three Lanes gives birth to the Eight Lane Superhighway. But the freeway that can be driven is not the eternal Freeway.

All arterials end in the Freeway as all rivers flow into the sea. The great Freeway flows everywhere. The Freeway is the center of the metropolis, the good man’s treasure, the bad man’s refuge. The Freeway never does anything, yet upon it all things are transported. It is like a well: used, but never used up.

The Freeway has no desires for itself; thus it is present for all drivers. The Freeway doesn’t take sides, it gives birth to both calm and angry drivers. Anticipate trouble before it arises. The journey of a thousand miles starts from your carport. Think of the small traffic jam as large and the few cars as many. Confront the difficult commute while it is still easy; accomplish the great journey by a series of small maneuvers.

Return is the movement of the Freeway. Yielding is the way onto the Freeway. The Master Driver enters traffic gravely, with sorrow and with great compassion, as if he were attending a funeral. Having a lane without possessing, driving with no expectations, leading by example and not trying to control: This is the supreme virtue.

When drivers see other cars as slow, they are filled with the desire to go fast. When drivers eliminate the desire for speed, they go with the flow and there is no stress. When you are content to be simply pace yourself and don’t compare speeds or compete for postition, everybody will respect you. The Master Driver does not wrangle about his position in traffic, and no one finds fault with him. All streams flow to the sea because it is lower than they are. Humility gives a good driver his power. Humility means trusting the Freeway. Trusting the Freeway means never needing to drive with fear.

May not the space between two cars be compared to a bellows?

The Master Driver blunts his sharp cornering, and unravels the complication of his weaving on the Freeway. Open yourself to the Freeway, then trust your natural responses; and everything will fall into place. Just stay at the center of your lane and let all things take their course. The Master Driver sees other drivers as they are, without trying to control them. He lets them go their own way, and resides in the center of his lane. Let all driving decisions come and go effortlessly, without desire. Never expect results and you will never be disappointed.

The Master Driver has no fixed plans and is not intent upon arriving. If you let restlessness move you, you lose track of where the police speed traps are. True mastery of the road can be gained by letting traffic go its own way. It cannot be gained by interfering.

Not to value men of superior velocity is the way to keep the people from rivalry among themselves. The Master Driver abstains from insulting other drivers with his speech or guestures, for this marks him who is in accord with the Dao of Driving. Give road rage nothing to oppose and it will disappear by itself.

The mediocre man becomes more and more urgent until he passes the Master Driver, but at the next light the Master Driver pulls up alongside him. The Master Driver will pass a slower vehicle, but be on his guard against being vain or boastful or arrogant in consequence of it. He passes as a matter of necessity. He passes, but not from a wish of mastery.

A car may be beautifully styled, but it is the four seats within that makes it useful. Not to prize vehicles which are expensive to procure is the way to keep the people from becoming car theives. The Master Driver parks in a beat up VW beetle with nothing but Grateful Dead tapes and thrift-store clothing inside, and no one breaks into his car.

How may a Master Driver’s car be described? It’s upper part is not bright, under the hood it is not obscure. Ceaseless in it’s action, it never fails to start. Travelling to the next city, it becomes remote, yet it reliably returns home again with the light of morning. We pass it, but we do not see a self-aggrandizing vanity plate. We follow it, but we do not see a self-aggrandizing bumper sticker. Headlights blind the eye. Horns deafen the ear. The Master Driver tempers the brightness of his headlights and is sparing with the use of his horn. He leaves no traces of his leaky oil pan or his smoky engine.

In the highest antiquity, people did not know there were speed limits. In the next age they loved them and praised them. In the next they feared them; in the next they despised them. Thus when faith in the Dao of Driving was deficient in the Transportation Department, want of faith in them ensued in the drivers. The tallest tree in the forest invites the feller; the fastest car on the Freeway invites the State Patrol. Which do you hold more dear? Speed or life? Getting to point B early or living long? The reckless and fast do not die their natural deaths. I make this the basis of my driver’s instruction.

A violent wind does not last for a whole morning, a sudden rain does not last for the whole day. If Heaven and Earth cannot make such thing last long, then how much less permanent is a mere traffic tie-up! The Master Driver knows how the HOV lane attracts during heavy traffic, but when commuting alone he keeps himself within the shade of the regular lanes.

Those who know the Freeway don’t talk on mobile phones. Those who talk on mobile phones don’t know the Freeway. Driving without distracting words on a cellular phone: that is the Master’s way. Be aware when other drivers are out of balance, for they might be drunk. Stay centered within your own lane.

The best general enters the mind of his enemy. The Master Driver knows the thoughts of the drivers close to him. When two cars rush at each other, the victory will go to the one that knows how to yield.






In the beginning was the nameless Way.

The nameless Way gave birth to things.

Things gave birth to namers of things.

Namers of things gave the nameless Way a name.

Behold: Wisdom

The woman of Wisdom does not carry any baggage from her past and she does not accumulate things from the present. So nothing can burn her in the future. It may seem utterly boring to the mediocre man but it is absolute freedom.

No one can understand the woman of Wisdom, anymore than one can understand a river by dipping a foot into it. This is because one’s foot creates eddies which have reverberations further downstream, and not all of these consequences can be foreseen. In chaotic systems small events in the beginning sometimes precipitate great events at the end. Who can tell if the flapping of a butterfly’s wings does not eventually lead to a destructive whirlwind? In the same way the woman of Wisdom eludes understanding, because the very act of trying to understand her changes her.


Seeing the hand of a newborn child resting upon my own, I seem so large, but feel, wordlessly, so small.Sunny

The woman of wisdom acts without effort from a center that gives rise to all things before they are precipitated out from one another and require names. Therefore she makes without owning and accomplishes without expectations of merit.

We perceive objects only because there is a background against which to see them. We hear only because of our perception of the difference between sound and silence. Once someone is named wise, it follows that someone else must be named mediocre. The whole world knows the large by the word “large” only because of the existence of the word “small”.  And yet the woman who demands admiration for her beauty is not truly beautiful.  The woman who demands recognition for her actions is not truly good.


If you exalt the worthy, this leads to cutthroat competition. If you exalt things, this leads to envy and theft. The woman of wisdom leads byStrong-woman persuading people to stop overanalyzing things and get to the heart of the matter. She weakens their ambitions for short-lived honors and strengthens their skills in building lasting works. If the people naturally do not trust cleverness, the crafty will find no leverage to deceive them.

The path of least resistance implies a type of goal-oriented action that approaches no action as closely as possible, as if it was the choice of a lazy man. But Wu Wei is not lack of action. Wu wei is a type of effortless action that doesn’t come from an egotistical desire to reach a specific goal. Wu Wei is like a sailboat following wherever the wind goes.

Desire leads to things happening, but not desiring leads to seeing the mystery. The woman of wisdom clothes herself with passion to know life made manifest. She strips herself of passion to know the secret of life. Making love, feeling joy, being blissful, feeling happy when meeting fellow friends, feeling sad when saying good-bye. Dispassion comes from knowing we will meet again. Renounce things pertaining to death and polarize to life! You are Life! When did you never live?

Gabhopper asked, “Why are warlords always trying to one-up each other?”

Xena answered, “It is because our society holds wealth and power and all manner of ‘things’ in such high esteem. If you exalt things, this always leads to envy and fraud and highway robbery.”

“Then who should we look up to?”

“Look up to the sage who leads by persuading people to stop mulling things over and simply cut to the essence of a problem, Gabhopper. Look up to the sage who weakens the people’s desire for short-lived, immediate results, and strengthens their resolve to accept delay in order to obtain longer lasting results.”

“How do we eliminate the influence of the clever who promise to teach the people ways to MAKE.DINARS.FAST?”

“By education. When all the people are suspicious of wheeler-dealers, the competitive will find no crevice by which to divide them, and no handle by which to manipulate them.”


The woman of wisdom is like a bank account with an infinite sum of money in it. No matter how often or how much you take from her, the residual balanceSnapshot of her creative force remains unchanged.

This is eternally true because:

Emptiness creates spirit, Spirit creates energy, Energy creates blood. Blood creates form, Form creates infant, Infant creates child, Child creates youth, Youth creates adult,

The adult ages, the aged die, and the dead revert to emptiness.

All of reality comes after the Lord of Creation, except the Eternal Feminine, which seems to come before. The nature of the Eternal Feminine is to yield, hence the woman of wisdom doesn’t insist it came before. Thus she says, “it seems.”

Gabhopper said, “If you cannot name your path, Xena, could you at least describe it to me? What shall it be likened to?”

Xena answered, “It is like the dark earth of the valley bottom which can yield a thousand harvests without being depleted. It is because the valley floor takes the lowest position that makes it possible for it to receive the eroded topsoil from higher elevations. The river floods and distributes the new till over the whole valley floor.”

“I don’t understand.”

“That is because you are trying too hard to understand. My path is easy. By emptying yourself and taking the lowest place, like the valley floor, you become capable of receiving, without effort, gifts without end.”


The universe is dispassionate, and regards all of humanity as but a twig on the great tree of being. The woman of wisdom cultivates the objectivity of thisJesus-sister larger perspective. Investigating reality with analytical methods is inferior to grasping the wordless essence at the core.

Water is the way to describe the woman of wisdom in one word. Water nourishes everything. When it roars down the mountain it carries everything away without a thought. Water doesn’t ponder what is necessary. It simply flows, trickles, pours, or sits. It doesn’t find enjoyment in nature nor try to go into seclusion. It seeks its own level, in the swamps or in town. Water is simply all around. Without a care, the woman of wisdom is caring.

The natural state of the universe is decay and death. Even the relatively benign motion (on the nano-scale) of heat tries to destroy the genetic patterns stored in cells. Life replicates like mad, trying to beat the clock. The result is we still have trees and animals from ancient days, patterns which persist in the face of forces which seek to destroy them. Woman is plugged directly into this process of maintaining a persistent human-pattern in the world.

“Tell me, Gabhopper,” Xena said, “what is time?”

“It’s uh…uh…”

“You see? Words fail you.”

“I know: It’s what keeps everything from happening at once!”

“You have only told me what time does. But what IS it? If they say you are the girl who hangs out with the Warrior Princess, that is what you do but it only touches on a facet of who you are.”

“So there are some things that cannot be known in words, only by living them.”

“Yes, Gabhopper. Love is like this.”


The universe exists, but not for the sake of itself.meditation-woman

That is how heaven and earth are able to endure.

The woman of wisdom takes the last place and does not live for herself.

Because she puts to death her very Self, she gains perfect selflessness.

That is how the woman of wisdom is able to endure.

Gabhopper asked the Warrior Princess, “How did you survive all those battles you were in, Xena?”

Xena replied, “A cowardly general thinks only of his personal survival, Gabhopper. Thus he endangers himself and his entire army, and indeed he puts the existence of his entire state in jeopardy. But when I advance on the battlefield I have already reconciled myself with death. I go into every battle, no matter how great or small, as though I were certainly doomed to die. Because the thought of dying has already been processed and accepted, this frees me to focus only on fighting well. Thus I retain my life. Keeping my life, I gain the victory. Gaining victory, I preserve the state and save the life of the people.


Millionaires seek high-elevation view properties on which to build their trophy homes, but water dwells in low-lying swamps and stesideways pool optical illusionep gorges which are considered unfit to build upon and worthless.

Diamonds are not essential for life, yet they are priced higher than any other jewel. Water is priced lower than any other commodity, yet without water, life simply cannot exist.

The woman of wisdom cultivates herself to take on the qualities of water.

  • Do not assume attack will not come but rather make yourself ready.
  • Become as stone and quietly await your enemy’s unprotected moment.
  • A victorious army is a rushing flood which is perfectly governed.
  • It is better to wait for the enemy to come than to rush out to meet him.
  • Show yourself in places he must hurry to, tiring himself.

Gabrielle, the favorite disciple of Xena, asked, “Lady Xena, why have you camped your army on this plain, and let Caesar go for the high ground?”

“Because in this battle, Gabhopper,” Xena replied, “we are the like the guest, and Caesar is like the host. Therefore I yield the hill of honor to him and accept this lower station.”

“But he can see our entire force,” Gabrielle objected, “while we cannot know what strength he has hidden behind the ridge!”

“Ah, but Gabhopper, that would only be important if we were the attacker. In that case we would tire ourselves fighting uphill and possibly be surprised by hidden forces waiting to ambush. Instead, my army is deployed like water, dwelling in the low places considered of negligible military value.”

“Why is that an advantage, Lady Xena?”

“Is not water itself vital if people are to live?” Xena answered. “Do not people seek it out in wells and rivers and even swamps?”

“So you’re saying Caesar will come to us?”

“By our mere continued presence on this plain Caesar will begin to covet this plain.”

“But Lady Xena, we are ringed by hills all around, and he has taken all of this high ground. When he attacks, we will not know from which direction he will come!”

“Yes, Gabhopper, but his forces are, as you say, spread like a ring all around us while we have the interior lines of communication. Anywhere he attacks I can order reinforcements within minutes. And anywhere I counterattack he will be weak, while his own signals will be slow to propagate around this ring. Do you see, dear disciple, how we assure ourselves of victory merely by humbling ourselves and keeping to the lowland?”


If you fill a container to the brim with water and try to carry it you will leave a trail of puddles.  If you devote your time to polishing your weapons you willsitc_mq_253cd be hesitant to use them, for fear they will be blemished.

A room filled with gold and jewels cannot be protected.

If you accumulate great wealth in one place, it is the wealth that will own you as you try to protect it.

Do what is needed, then move on. This is the method of the Nameless Way.

  • The object of war is swift victory, not drawn out limited action.
  • A state exhausted by a long war tempts its neighbor to invade.
  • It is better to subdue the enemy than to destroy him.
  • A city captured intact is superior to taking smoking ruins.

The Warrior Princess said to her favorite padawan learner, “Gabhopper, why do you stop pouring when a cup has nearly been filled?”

“Because a cup can only accept so much liquid and no more, Lady Xena,” Gabrielle replied. “Everyone knows that.”

“And why do you stop sharpening a sword after it has acquired a keen edge?”

“Because the sword can only accept so much sharpening and no more, Lady Xena. Everyone knows that.”

“If everyone knows these things, then why do they go on devoting their life to acquiring more and more wealth? Do they not see that every person can only accept so many things, and no more?”


Reconcile opposites and grasp oneness.woman doing yoga in water huge mountain backdrop

Let go of potential and focus on doing.

Remove preconceptions to clarify your mind.

The woman of wisdom intervenes in people’s affairs only when it is necessary, not from a whim, nor out of the desire to demonstrate power.

  • It is better to keep the peace than to make it.
  • War is violence pushed to the ultimate extreme.
  • Rulers ignorant of military matters must not participate in them.
  • There are times in war when the ruler need not be obeyed.

“Lady Xena,” asked her disciple Gabrielle, “how do you choose which side to fight for?”

“It is difficult to decide that, Gabhopper,” Xena replied. “People obscure their actions with boasting and you obscure people’s actions with your prejudices. To uncloud the mind, look only at their deeds.”

“But how do you decide which deeds are good?”

“Oppose those whose actions divide the people. Ally with those whose actions unify the people. But never fight for the love of fighting, or from the urge to impress others with your abilities. Sometimes violence is a necessary evil, but violence is never good.”


People are attracted to the glamour of expensive cars, but it is the hole opening in front of you that allows movement in a traffic jam.toenail+clipping+because+LUCY+++LAWLESS.+Ohh+Yes+_407a55be949e7602c04e97f7d95ab8d1

As you move into an empty space, the emptiness moves behind you, tireless, ready to be used by the drivers behind you.

  • Use banners and flags to fix the attention of your troops.
  • United, the brave will not rush ahead, cowards will not fall back.
  • When the enemy counterfeits a retreat, do not pursue.
  • Leave an escape route to a surrounded enemy and they will retire.

Xena said, “My chakram has 18 birthstones, but it is the hole within that allows me to grab it from its return flight.”

“Yes,” Gabhopper said as she accepted this instruction.

“My breastplate has beautifully intricate brasswork,” Xena continued, “but it is the spaces within that lift and support my boobs. Dear disciple, do you know the lesson in this?”

“Delight is found in being, but utility is found in non-being,” Gabhopper answered.

Xena replied, “Excellent.”


All the colors mixed together produce an unrelieved white.

To flood a person with detail is to convey no information at all.Xena-Gabrielle-xena-and-gabrielle-27227554-1024-768

Hurrying to beat the clock produces stress and shortens our lives.

The woman of wisdom rejects superficial gain and holds to what is more deeply valuable.

Gabhopper said, “Sometimes I wish I had a scroll of my entire life, so I could peek at what comes next.”

“Such a scroll exists at the Akashic Library,” Xena revealed. “Within its walls are an endless number of scrolls; each one, when unrolled, as tall as a person, each one inscribed randomly with every possible permutation of the twenty-four Greek letters from alpha to omega.”

“But wouldn’t all but a very small fraction of these scrolls contain nothing but gibberish?”

“Yes, Gabhopper, but the number of scrolls containing meaningful information, although a small fraction of the total scrolls, would still be infinite. Somewhere within the Akashic Library would be written the true story of your life from beginning to end.”

“But how could I ever find it, Xena?”

“Not only that, but how could you ever be sure you had the genuine story of your life, and not one that gets everything correct except that you fall in love with Joxer?”

“So this Akashic Library is useless!”

Xena nodded. “The more information you convey, the less knowledge you convey, and to convey infinite information is to convey no knowledge at all.”


x_and_g_mq_2011n2To the self that is great, unfortunate circumstances are greatly unpleasant.

To the self that is diminished, misfortunes have little effect.

The sage puts to death the self.  Without a self, how can she experience reversals?

Therefore the sage can be trusted with great responsibilities.

“Xena, why are people never content?”

“Because they have let their ego grow to become so great, Gabhopper, that their capacity for enjoyment has largely been displaced. Diminish the self, like emptying a cup, and there will be room for joy to enter. Renounce your greater passions, and indulge your lesser passions, and you will be content.”

“Why do people suffer so much?”

“Because they have let their ego grow to become so great, Gabhopper, and it is the ego that experiences pain and loss. Diminish the self, like emptying a cup, and your capacity to suffer will vanish.”

“Will this attitude prevent tragedy and ensure good fortune, Xena?”

“No. But when you can accept gain and loss with equal poise, people naturally look to you as a leader, and they will judge you to be of good character.”


Look, and it can’t be seen. Listen, and it can’t be heard. Reach, and it can’t be grasped.Gab_Xena_Eve_baby

Above, it isn’t bright.  Below, it isn’t dark. Seamless, unnamable, it returns to the realm of nothing. Form that includes all forms, image without an image, subtle, beyond all conception. 

Approach it and there is no beginning; follow it and there is no end. You can’t know it, but you can be it, at ease in your own life. Just realize where you come from: this is the essence of wisdom.

Gabhopper said, “Your baby is the newest thing in the world, yet she bears the name of the oldest woman, ‘Eve.’ I like that, old and new, all in one.”

Xena replied, “My child was given a name because there was a time when she was not, and then a time when she was. But there was never a time when my path was not, so it cannot be given a name.

“Yet you call it the ‘Nameless Way’. Is that not a name, Xena?”

“Things have names, but truly, the trail I follow which leads from confusion to clarity is a lane of emptiness that permits me to travel on it. Because it is not a thing, it cannot receive a name. Try to give it one, and the name tag falls right off.”

“You call it a lane? Does that mean your path is long?”

“No Gabhopper, it has no discernible shape at all. It is like a statue buried under centuries of dust. If you brush the dust off to try to make out the face, you only succeed in totally obscuring everything with a room full of dust. Thus it is with words as I try to teach you about my way.”


It is not possible to know the sage whose mind is conformed by the Nameless Way. We can only observe her behavior.xggallery101

Cautious she is, like a company crossing a minefield. Ready, like an army on the morning of a great battle. Dignified, like a visiting sovereign. Unpredictable, like the vagaries of weather.  Simple, like the lowest foot-soldier.

When confused like muddied water, the sage stills her mind and gradually reacquires clarity. She does not seek comfort, so she can endure setbacks, and does not suffer in times of hardship.

“Tell me, Gabhopper, why are you undertaking instruction in my path?”

“I want to be like you, Xena.”

“Only the outward actions of a warrioress can be observed, never her guarded inner core. A warrioress takes care.”

“I do that too, Xena. Before I say something, I always qualify it with, ‘I may be wrong about this, but…’ or ‘I’m not really sure, but…'” or “This will sound dumb, but…”

“That is not what I mean by protecting your center, Gabhopper. You don’t even realize it, but with such self-effacing language as you describe, you are really playing down your intelligence in order to gain acceptance from other people.”

“So you are saying that mincing words is not true humility, but actually a form of display?”

“Yes! And when your tentative speech becomes a habit, you begin to automatically think bad of yourself. This serves only to perpetrate misguided traditions. Tell others what you know and feel, gently, but firmly. A warrioress may doubt others, but she never doubts herself.”


Obtain maximum nothingness. Leave your brokenness intact.3add85bbd7b5ca2b3b0e662324448b1b

When salmonberries flourish it is impossible to walk through them. When they store their juices for winter and retreat the Way becomes clear again.

Flourishing is not constant. Retreating is not constant. But flourishing and retreating are constant.

“Xena, why do men love combat so much?”

“Because as long as a child is growing he is filling out his potential, Gabhopper. As long as he has not yet reached his limits, he remains a child. His limits remain unknown unless they are met and perhaps even exceeded somewhat. Combat is the crisis by which men come to know their limits and obtain maturity.”

“But women warriors don’t need a ritual to reach maturity?”

“For many women maturity is attained in a very practical and natural way: motherhood. Maturity means acknowledging your limits and returning to your root. It is a woman’s nature to make herself still and embrace her center. So even without the experience of motherhood, women are naturally mature.”

“And young men are always reaching out, always moving, always extending, until they know their breaking point.”

“Yes, Gabhopper, and while they are on this personal quest to find their limits, they can be enlisted in stupid vainglorious campaigns to defend the honor of warlords and kings who themselves never attained adulthood. And many of these young men die. What makes a female warrior different, Gabhopper?

“She is primarily interested in the survival of the people she protects.”

Xena said, “Excellent.”


Those of the Golden Age were receptive to the nameless wayGabrielle_Xena_first_meet

Those of the Age of Silver endorsed it

Those of the Bronze Age looked for it

Those of the Age of Steel ignore it

If your actions lack integrity no one will believe your words

Let your words be in short supply and they will be in high demand

When others are trumpeting the sage’s deeds as their own, the sage remains silent, and lets her deeds speak praises of her.

“Why are you a woman of so few words, Xena?”

“Your chatter flows from your nature, Gabhopper, but the silence of a warrioress flows from her understanding. When you release a flood of words, there is a greater chance that you may inadvertently utter something that you did not intend to say, and this will reveal your foolishness to all.”

“If the wise speak like fools then they are fools,” Gabhopper objected.

“A foolish woman may be considered wise, if she but closes her lips. Long ago most people walked my path and they did what needed to be done with few words. Then, as many began to leave my path they invented writing and recordkeeping and history. Today, few walk my path, and we are overrun by speechmakers and long-winded politicians with their solutions for this or that crisis, when all of these problems could be solved by letting things freely reach their natural balance.”

“But then the politicians would not get credit for saving the day, Xena, and people would begin to think such parasites were not needed at all.”

“You have hit very close to the mark, Gabhopper.”


When the nameless way is lost, people resort to tradition.49716a61e2b4b56af4c96279235f6e86897b0d5c_r

When tradition is lost, people resort to law.

When law is lost, people resort to equilibrium morality.

When equilibrium morality is lost, people resort to brute force.

Gabhopper asked, “Can a warrioress still be loving?”

Xena said, “We have the name ‘loving’ for someone who loves, to distinguish them from people who hate, because in this dark age we have many people who hate.”

“Has hatred not always been with us, Xena?”

“Long ago everyone loved, so the word ‘loving’ did not yet exist. Love was as abundant as the air we breathe, like the water a fish lives and moves in. Only the absence of love demanded the invention of the word ‘loving’ to describe those who still held to my path.”

“Could the same be said of the wise?”

“Or the honest, or the just. As more and more people fell away from my path, the names for more and more virtues began to appear, where before there had been only formless innocence.”



A moral code represses the people.  If you try to govern by intelligence, you will not be able to anticipate every eventuality. Abandon both, and the people will return to natural order.

Eliminate the profit incentive, and organized crime will disappear.

A trail is nothing, yet it permits travel through thick brush.

Follow the nameless way through tangled desires and escape selfishness.

Gabhopper said, “Your path is hard, Xena. It seems to defy reason.”

Xena replied, “Reason is for cutting away truths and filtering out truths, so as to arrive at the truth you are looking for. Reason is useless for growing and nourishing truths. That is why a warrioress relies instead on her inner agreement with the truth.”

“But reason is the foundation of our system of justice!”

“Exactly, Gabhopper. That is why our society’s righteousness is based on cutting and filtering, on refraining from doing evil things instead of accomplishing good things now, in this moment, and letting the past be the past.”

“Is it because reason demands absolute standards?”

“To those who have left my path and embrace the world’s idea of justice, people are always falling short of the ideal standards demanded by reason. A warrioress extols people over all such standards, because when they do go astray it is always induced by the repression of those very standards.”

“What about when there is a tragedy, such as a typhoon or an earthquake, and the people are blamed for somehow offending the gods?”

“Again, this is a product of unrestricted reason, which is never satisfied until it finds an answer. Has there been a natural disaster with no cause rooted in human failings? Reason is not satisfied with that. Those who worship at the altar of reason cannot accept the capriciousness of nature. They must have an explanation for everything. So they say the gods are angry and sit back in moral judgement of the people.”

“Myself, I would not be found sitting back. I would be dressing peoples wounds or serving them soup.”

Xena said, “Excellent.”


playsFrom the perspective of eternity, even the most momentous decisions are utterly insignificant. Galaxies collide, and compared to them mighty human deeds, both good and evil, seem as nothing.

Therefore the sage does not share her griefs or exult in joy with others, like a newborn babe who has not yet learned to smile. This makes her an outsider, never invited to participate in social occasions.

While others delight in acquiring for self, the sage renounces all that she owns. She would appear to be like an army cut off deep in enemy territory, with no visible line of support.  But her supply route is the nameless way.

“It seems that to be a warrioress is to set yourself apart from the rest of humanity, Xena.”

“That is so, Gabhopper, but not from a desire to be elite, but only because a warrioress clings to her inner nature while others flutter about chasing illusions.”

“Is it wrong to seek the truth?”

“It is wasted effort to seek the truth, Gabhopper. While others run around looking for external truths, the warrioress cultivates my path, which brings her mind naturally into accordance with the way things are.”

“More often, their running around is probably so they can just make ends meet.”

“People lead busy lives because they perceive their wants as needs, so their needs become endless. Being a warrioress means having a good sense of priorities, Gabhopper. Her needs are relatively few, and her desires are almost nonexistent, so she appears calm and contemplative.”


playsFrom the perspective of eternity, even the most momentous decisions are utterly insignificant. Galaxies collide, and compared to them mighty human deeds, both good and evil, seem as nothing.

Therefore the sage does not share her griefs or exult in joy with others, like a newborn babe who has not yet learned to smile. This makes her an outsider, never invited to participate in social occasions.

While others delight in acquiring for self, the sage renounces all that she owns. She would appear to be like an army cut off deep in enemy territory, with no visible line of support.  But her supply route is the nameless way.

“It seems that to be a warrioress is to set yourself apart from the rest of humanity, Xena.”

“That is so, Gabhopper, but not from a desire to be elite, but only because a warrioress clings to her inner nature while others flutter about chasing illusions.”

“Is it wrong to seek the truth?”

“It is wasted effort to seek the truth, Gabhopper. While others run around looking for external truths, the warrioress cultivates my path, which brings her mind naturally into accordance with the way things are.”

“More often, their running around is probably so they can just make ends meet.”

“People lead busy lives because they perceive their wants as needs, so their needs become endless. Being a warrioress means having a good sense of priorities, Gabhopper. Her needs are relatively few, and her desires are almost nonexistent, so she appears calm and contemplative.”


xena001Considered as doctrine the nameless way is foggy and vague.  Considered as the form of wholeness the nameless way has unmistakable reality.

The reality of the nameless way anchors and sustains the being of all things. From the beginning it has been so.

Gabhopper said, “Teacher, if your path is about always simplifying things, should I not start by ignoring authority figures?”

“That is a good beginning,” Xena answered. “Power attracts people who are more interested in expanding and clinging to their power than in nourishing their mind on my path.”

“What would you say if I also, in the name of simplifying my life, began ignoring you?”

“That is a good direction in which to continue, Gabhopper. Individual people, even I, may not truly be in harmony with the nameless way. But all the people, taken in aggregate, cannot help but be in harmony with that path.”

“So if I take all the people as my teacher, I cannot go wrong?”

“Assuredly, Gabhopper. This is so because individual leaders or teachers may have ambitions, and so depart from my path. But the common people lack ambition, so they live in natural simplicity precisely in accordance with my path.”



With few there is quick agreement and progress is made. With many, the deliberations stretch out indefinitely and nothing gets done.

The sage sets her feet on the nameless way and becomes an example for others. She does not boast, so she acquires merit. She does not strive, so no one finds it possible to strive with her.

See the wholeness of the nameless way and return to it.

“Look at that, Xena! Ten times ten thousand arrayed against us! Did you ever see such a host?”

“A large force does not assure the enemy a victory, Gabhopper. What are the stakes? Rome is fighting to add yet another tax-paying province to their empire. But our people can barely make ends meet as it is. Paying the Roman tribute would kill them. They are fighting to survive.”

“But that is Caesar and Pompey over there!”

“And they hate each other, Gabhopper. They only joined together against me because the Senate wills it.”

“But under them are the most famous generals and captains in the empire!”

“And how did they get so famous, Gabhopper? By their reckless aggression. If I present my shock troops to them as bait they will rush out to engage them, thinking how this will advance their reputation.”

“But behind them are the best fed and best trained troops in the known world, Xena!”

“But they aren’t fighting for their wives or cities or farms in Italy, they are fighting to prop up a bankrupt culture and a fragile slave economy. When they see the carnage wrought by my extraordinary force, they will hesitate. And in that moment I will strike with my main force. My army will prevail because it is humble. My soldiers do not think of self-aggrandizement or the aggrandizement of a state.”

Gabhopper said, “Excellent.”


squbStars cool and go out. A range of rugged mountains are worn down into a line of low hills. If matter and energy cannot last forever, how much less so human endeavor!

If your actions are conformed by the nameless way, success and setback are accepted with poise, and you will be trusted by others.

The apprentice Gabhopper asked, “If your path is so beneficient, m’Lady, why aren’t you shouting it from the rooftops?”

“Dear disciple,” Xena answered, “when a sage’s words are considered a treasure she could whisper them, and students eager to learn will incline their ear toward her. It is when words are foolish or unwanted that we hear them being trumpeted, and the less valuable they are the louder and more urgently they are pushed.”

“But your teachings are timeless!” she objected. “If you don’t preserve your words you will be considered a failure!”

“My path does not guarantee success nor does it protect from failure. But if your mind is placed in conformity with my path, success will not unduly excite you and failure will not unduly discourage you.”



The higher you go, the greater your peril. An overloaded boat will sink.

If you grow famous, your public personality will outshine your hidden true self and you will be divided. If you hype yourself, people will develop resistance.

A woman on the nameless way calls this “wasted effort.”

Gabhopper asked,  “Xena, should I try to appease everyone who asks something of me?”

“Dear disciple,” Xena replied, “if you grant every request that comes up you will reap the immediate well-thinking of the supplicants, but eventually some of these requests will conflict with each other and in the end you will not be able to provide everything they clamor for.”

“Surely if I try my best they cannot blame me!”

“You will be seen as dithering and waffling, and without character, and soon no one will trust you at all.”

“Then should I refuse everyone who asks something of me?”

“You should refuse instead the self-flattery and visions of fame that motivates many givers.”

“Xena, are those motives bad, if one is seen by others as generous?”

“It is not bad to have a reputation of generosity, it is bad to have an over-inflated reputation of generosity.”



Before matter and energy was the perfect void. It asserts itself without cause. It operates without discontinuity. We can think of it as the author of all. We can call it the nameless way. We can discern it as great.

That which is great are four and human free will is one of them. Human beings follow matter. Matter follows energy. Energy follows the nameless way.

Gabhopper said, “It is hard to understand your words, Xena.”

The Warrior Princess replied, “That is because you expect my path to have many parts, dear disciple, and you are unable to realize that it is really very simple.”

“Is your path a goddess?”

“It is eternal like a goddess, but without awareness of itself. It is great because matter and energy have their being within it.”

“If it is so great, Xena, what do I call it?”

“Impose whatever name you like, it remains without a name. ”

“So how can it be so great?”

“Since my path is not concentrated in a body or a thing,” Xena answered, “its actions are applied to all bodies and all things. Thus it is great.”

“If your path is not aware of itself how does it now how to act on all things?”

“Woman is an echo of the Earth’s fertility. The Earth’s seasons are an echo of the cycles of heaven. The regularities in heaven are an echo of my path. My path echoes only itself.”


Difficulty is the seed of ease. Serenity is the master of confusion. Therefore, the sage lives her entire life without  relinquishing her responsibilities.

Though there may be many opportunities to simply enjoy her self, she willingly forgoes them. She does not approach the task of leadership lightly, so she remains firmly grounded.

“Xena,” asked the apprentice Gabhopper, “how can we, numbering in our thousands, hope to prevail against our enemies numbering in their tens of thousands?”

The Warrior Princess, said, “A light commando force wreaking havoc behind enemy lines will tie down a much greater force hunting for it. A small army that is still and rested with have the better of a large army that is worn out marching double-time to meet it.”

“But there must be a limit to how small a unit can be before it is ineffective no matter how intelligently it is employed.”

“Too light, and we invite aggression. Too heavy, and our army becomes unwieldy. A commander in harmony with my path coordinates the small with the great, the strong with the weak, the eager with the reticent, balancing opposites to obtain the perfect Middle Way.”


62ff5a3a504e3ed24b89c8cc43e6db1aA good worker does not blame her tools. A good leader does not blame her subordinates.

The sage is creative in finding a role for people and things. She wastes nothing and no one.

But if respect is not given to her subordinate, no matter how creative she is such a leader has strayed far from the nameless way.

The Warrior Princess said, “Right motion leaves no trace. Right speech contains no error. Right conduct benefits all.”

Her apprentice Gabhopper asked, “Then please tell me, Xena, how can I be of right mind?”

“Let your thoughts become like a fine net.  Let no one escape your notice.  Let no one useful be wasted. And let no emotion fog your judgment on who may play a role.  On my path the learned instruct without loving their students. The ignorant learn without loving their teachers.”

“I shall never forget your words, Xena.”

“Remember my words, Gabhopper, but forget me. Unless you can erase all thoughts of your teacher from your mind, your thoughts will be clouded.”



Know the male, but persist in the female. Become the easy channel for all to flow along, and you will grasp innocence like a little child.

Know the light but persist in darkness. Become the example for all. Set your foot on the nameless way and you cannot go wrong.  There is nothing you cannot do.

Know fame but persist in obscurity.  As you endure in the nameless way you return to the undifferentiated state.

“Why must I study our enemies,” the apprentice Gabhopper complained. “What is so admirable about men?”

The Warrior Princess answered, “They have accomplished astonishing things, but they have gone far from their center. Know the ways of men, but embrace your own femininity.”

“Xena, I don’t understand.”

“You see, dear disciple, even the most powerful male has nipples because he developed from an embryo that had its origin as a female. The mightiest tree had its origin as a tender sapling. Wood is useful, but it had its origin as a green shoot. Light is useful, but it had its origin in darkness. The strength of adulthood is useful, but it had its origin in the weakness of infancy.”

“So I should nourish the pliability of my girlhood and youth.”

“Keep your options open, Gabhopper. Once you latch onto a specific pattern you will always feel…not-so-fresh.”


aresIf you try to control the world, you are certain to fail.

Winds flatten houses. Dams silt up. Roads are washed out. Insects decimate crops. Vegetation grows up to erase landmarks.

The sage knows these things, so she rejects the arrogant delusion that it is possible to manipulate the world.

At length Gabhopper asked the ultimate question: “What do men want?”

Xena answered, “Men cannot rule something as minor as a common cold, yet they want to rule the entire world. But reality contains infinite complexities within it. To harness it is to spoil it. The days are bright, the night is dark. Winds blow, floods come. The seasons are hot and cold. These things exist beyond man’s puny attempts to control them.”

“Still, Xena, men often succeed in their way, and take pride in their cleverness.”

“Nature abhors monuments to man’s cleverness, attacking his walls with moss and erosion and crumbling his cities to dust.”

“So instead of revering tradition it is better to let go of things when they age?”

“Yes, my dear disciple. And instead of disdaining inexperience it is better to welcome things when they are new. For only the ever-renewing patterns of life are permanent.”


Those who rule in accordance with the nameless way do not rely on force. Where the army goes, prices for everything are inflated. When peace negotiations break down, the meritorious commander mourns, as though she has already failed.

Obtain victory, but without gloating. Obtain victory, but with the smallest expenditure of force. Great energy is soon expended.

“Why do you not lay seige to Alesia now, Xena?” the apprentice Gabhopper inquired. “Our entire force has arrived and is in place.”

“Dear disciple,” answered the Warrior Princess, “it is better to take a city intact after a delay than to capture smoking ruins without delay.”

“But there are reports of parties making their way out of the city under cover of the night.”

“We have Caesar nearly surrounded, facing the prospect of slow starvation. But there is one escape route left open, inviting him to retire. Note that our patrols have strict orders not to let anyone in to the city.”

“So doing-without-doing, you will seize Alesia without seizing it?”

“What is now a trickle out the back door will become a flood. Never engage in slaughter for the sake of slaughter, dear Gabhopper. Persuasion is always superior to violence.”



The woman who sets her foot on the nameless way is familiar with the principles of warfare, but she never grows to love them. To her, weapons are a necessary evil, and she does not relish using them.

Victory is a double-bladed sword with no handle.  You cannot wield it and remain yourself unwounded.

If you thrill to the prospect of bloodshed, you can never enlist the support of the people.

The apprentice Gabhopper asked, “Xena, what do you think of this proverb: ‘Happy is the city that thinks of war in times of peace?'”

“Wise is the woman who immerses herself in military lore,” answered the Warrior Princess. “But make no mistake, dear disciple. Happiness has nothing to do with it. Combat is the worst experience mankind has ever subjected itself to. The tragedy is that combat is something man will never cease inflicting on himself.”

“What of these vainglorious thrill-seekers who claim to love warfare?”

“They are either lying and have never tasted combat, or their mind has failed them.”



The nameless way remains without a name. It is when people give in to the temptation to classify things that the whole is shattered into many parts, and this is the beginning of names.

There are enough names in the world.  Withdraw your enthusiasm from continuing the endless subdivision of the nameless way.

The sign of the activity of the nameless way in the world is seen in flowing water, which always moves from high to low places, yet is always replenished.

Xena took her apprentice Gabhopper on a seven-mile walk in the woods. They descended four thousand feet along a mountain stream that doubled and redoubled in size as other streams joined it. The stream plunged over a staircase of innumerable cataracts and divided into islands as it formed stretches of white rapids alternating with deep quiet pools.

“This place is beautiful, Xena,” Gabhopper said after many minutes of contemplative silence. “I find myself deeply moved.”

“Why do you find it so beautiful, dear disciple?” the Warrior Princess asked her.

“I think it is perhaps the simplicity of the water’s purpose, always seeking the lowest place.”

“What if you saw it raining on the ocean? Surely, as the simplest case, you would find that exceedingly beautiful.”

“No, Xena, it would seem such a waste of fresh water. Maybe I’m thinking of the complexity of this landscape along the valley floor, of the cliffs and hillsides and gravel bars.”

“Then what of that recent rockslide two miles back? Surely you found the jumbled, random complexity of the boulder field gorgeous beyond compare.”

“No, I found it to be an ugly scar on the land. I’m sorry, I have failed you, Xena. I cannot tell you why this place is so beautiful.”

“You have not failed me, dear disciple. Words have failed you.”


prodigalKnowing others is intelligence, but knowing yourself is enlightenment. Mastering others is exercising power, but mastering  yourself is developing strength.

Acquiring much is to be rich, acquiring enough is to be content. If you are successful in compelling others, you have a powerful will.  If you win others over with quiet persistence, you achieve the same result, yet without fostering resentment.

The Warrior Princess noted her novice’s preoccupation with the pan pipes one day. “Gabhopper,” she said, “let me examine them.”

The apprentice dutifully passed the instrument to her mentor. “Of course I’m not as good as Joxer,” she admitted.

“Yet there is a Third Way,” Xena said, “where every such instrument seeks not to conquer the musician nor to be conquered by the musician.”

“Pray, great Warrior Princess,” implored Gabhopper. “How does one find this mysterious Third Way?”

Xena dropped the pan pipes on the ground and crushed them under her boots.

And Gabhopper was enlightened!


Xena_s3_tsunami_dArc_744The nameless way turns to the left and to the right. The sage relies on it but knows it is impossible to dictate which way it turns. It possesses neither being nor non-being, yet it nourishes all things.

The nameless way does not claim authority over anything. Without desire, the nameless way is called the meek.

It does not call itself great, but all things return to it. So its greatness is real nonetheless.

“We are summoned by King Gordius,” the apprentice Gabhopper told Xena.  “He has deigned to hear you expound on your principles for gaining victory in battle.”

“Some have called my teachings the art of war, and this has intrigued the king,” Xena replied.  “But my procedures are nothing more than waging war the way water flows.”

“One time when it had rained for many days,” Gabhopper said, “my family tried to protect our house by filling many burlap sacks with sand and stacking them in a wall around our dwelling, yet the water still found a way in, and the second condition was worse than the first, for the house was still flooded, yet we were exhausted.”

“Precisely, Gabhopper.   My army always flows away from strong points and attacks the enemy where he does not anticipate.  A victorious army is a rushing flood which is perfectly governed. ”

Gabhopper said, “Excellent.”


XenachakfuriesFollowing the nameless way, all things are seen as transient. Generations have come and gone in good order, all remains as it has from the beginning.

The desire to stop is a passing fancy, like a traveler sidetracked by the aroma
of food or the sound of music.

The nameless way is so subtle, you cannot smell it or hear it. Yet when you use it, the nameless way is never exhausted.

Strapped to her Utility Belt the Chakram appears quiescent, yet when Xena releases her signature weapon there is nothing it cannot do.

It turns inexplicably to the right and to the left. It hovers to saw off a thick branch. It bounces off clay pots in one scene yet embeds in solid granite in another.

Gabhopper asked, “Xena, do you think love is blind?”

Xena replied, “Sure, I believe that.”

Gabhopper went on. “And Xena, do you believe in love at first sight?”

Xena said, “Of course I do, Gabhopper. Sure, I believe that.”

Gabhopper fumed, “That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard of! How can they both be true at the same time?”

Xena held up her Chakram and replied, “Because I said so, that’s why!”




The nameless way appears to signify inactivity, yet it enables the completion of all things.

If the sovereign cultivates the undifferentiated “mind-at-its-beginning,” the people become without desire.

Without desire, they attain serenity. And affairs naturally grow calm.

The Mediocre Man goes to war for the common good, because he believes a benevolent society must sometimes impose righteousness by force. He trumpets names for his missions like “Operation Just Cause” or “Operation Enduring Freedom” and broadcasts campaigns by television news. He clobbers the enemy with overwhelming force to the accolades of the whole world. Everyone calls him a skillful general.

The Woman of Wisdom goes to war only when all other avenues have failed. When she arrives on the field her heart is heavy, as if she were attending a funeral. Unseen by friend or foe alike, she arranges alliances, supplies, and the disposition of her forces in such a way that a wise enemy general will concede defeat without fighting, and a foolish enemy will be defeated before he even begins to maneuver. So the Woman of Wisdom never receives the recognition of the world, because her enemies seem to melt away without providing the spectacle of a bloody battle.





2 Responses to Taoism

  1. Argus says:

    Too much for one ol’ dog to read in a single sitting—perhaps you’d be better off breaking it up into individual ‘attention-span’ posts?

    Good luck, and for what my opinion is worth: I like what I managed to read~!

  2. Linuxgal says:

    Sometimes I do break ’em back out, update ’em, let ’em fly for a while as a post again. I’ve been away from the blog for about a year and a half, I’m only now getting back in.

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