Tao is an empty vessel
Yet everything comes from it.
Though utterly fathomless,
It gives rise to everything we perceive
It smooths sharp edges,
It unties the knots,
It softens the glare,
And settles the dirt of daily life.
It seems to have been around forever.
No one knows where it came from.
This is because it preceded the world of forms.
Taoism holds that everything in the universe comes from a place which precedes all material forms and conceptions. Though science is congruent on some levels with this (notably via Big Bang theory and aspects of theoretical physics) it is still a rather metaphysical idea. Nevertheless, the metaphor is a practical one: The cultivation of empty space and undifferentiated potential make sense on a psychological level as well.
Fortunately, Taoist metaphysics also locates Tao in the human head, namely as a precursor to consciousness, a substrate of the mind which precedes memory and thought. It’s an idea that has served as the basis for both psychological theories and mystical practices, namely the idea that if we can learn to familiarize ourselves with that pre-conscious awareness, we can get better control over our hardened conscious programming.
The Taoist sage’s “soft” mind is the product of this familiarity with the unformed, or rather, the informal. It is because he doesn’t prejudge anything that he is able to “act naturally” in all situations, and ultimately live in a way that observers will find admirable, even though he can seem awkward at first blush. Perhaps this is because the sage can evince both the gracefulness and guilelessness of a child, yet with the independence of an adult.