Tao flows everywhere and in all directions.
Everything in the universe relies upon it,
Yet it doesn’t expect anything in return.
It works diligently,
Yet seeks no merit.
It is all-powerful,
Yet seeks no control.
It is eternal,
Yet seeks no sustenance.
Thus it can be found amongst even the most insignificant.
It provides the ground for all things,
Yet requires no tithe.
Thus it can be placed among the greatest of the great.
In the same way,
The sage does not seek greatness.
This is how he finds it.
“Casual” is a word that seems pretty straightforward and simple, but the more you think about it, the more mystical and poetic it actually is. Though we commonly associate it with a manner of dress, it’s much bigger and more profound than just being allowed to wear sneakers in your cubicle on Fridays.
It’s commonly known that Buddhists advocate a casual attitude towards the world. They refer to this as “non-attachment”—to take the world as it comes and not get too broken up about it when things take a turn for the worse. Taoism, via the Tao Te Ching takes this idea a step further even, advocating outright “indifference.” That is, we should be skeptical about the concepts of good or bad in the first place because what is good now may soon turn bad, and vice-versa.
There is a famous Taoist parable which illustrates this type of indifference and its utility: A farmer has only one horse. When the horse runs away his neighbors say “What bad luck!” The farmer merely says, “Is it?” Days later, the horse returns and brings with it a beautiful wild stallion. His neighbors say “What good luck!” The farmer replies, “Is it?” Enchanted by the new horse, the farmer’s son tries to ride it, but is thrown and badly injured. The neighbors say “What bad luck!” To which the farmer shrugs, “Is it?” Not long afterwards the country is under threat and every able young man is conscripted into the military, but the son cannot go because of his injuries. “What good luck!” the neighbors say. The farmer again only says, “Is it?”
Indifference, in the Taoist sense, is not a lack of caring, but a reluctance to pass judgment on situations, a practice that stems from a profound humility about the complexity of the patterns in our lives. Who can say what is good or what is bad? It can depend upon when you take the measurement and with which tool. A peaceful life is more easily led by those who patiently wait for the tides to turn. Life isn’t like it is in cinema of course, which require drama and conflict to be interesting. A movie audience won’t sit around waiting for slow reversals, so films and fiction require constant incitements into action. Our lives are far less cinematic than those shown in movies. For that we should thank our lucky stars. What good luck!