El Cabrero began this week by discussing the late great Bruce Lee, who was quite enamored of Taoist thought.
It occurs to me that this might be as good a time as any to share this nugget from the ancient Chinese Taoist sage Chuang Tzu (aka Zhuangzi), who lived around the 4th century BC. His eponymous book is full of humorous and skeptical parables and dialogues about relativity, simplicity and living in accord with nature and the Way (Tao or Dao).
A basic idea of Taoism that is that we often make things harder on ourselves than we have to through unskillful actions and wasted energy. That's the point of the story of Prince Wen Hui's cook.
It is said that one day the prince observed the cook carving an ox. He was so skillful that the ox seemed to fall apart of its own accord. The Prince complimented him on his skill and got this reply:
The cook laid down his knife and said, "What your servant really cares for is Tao, which goes beyond mere art. When I first began to cut up oxen, I saw nothing but oxen. After three years of practicing, I know longer saw the ox as a whole. I now work with my spirit, not with my eyes. My senses stop functioning and my spirit takes over. I follow the natural grain, letting the knife find its way through the many hidden openings, taking advantage of what is there, never touching a ligament or a tendon, much less a main joint.
"A good cook changes his knife once a year because he cuts, while a mediocre cook has to change his every month because he hacks. I've had this knife of mine for nineteen years and have cut up thousands of oxen with it, and yet the edge is as if it were fresh from the grindstone. There are spaces between the joints. The blade of the knife has no thickness. That which has no thickness has plenty of room to pass through theses spaces. Therefore, after nineteen years, my blade is as sharp as ever. However, when I come to a difficulty, I size up the joint, look carefully, and work slowly. Then with a very slight movement of the knife, I cut the whole ox wide open. It falls apart like a clod of earth, crumbling to the ground. I stand there with the knife in my hand, looking about me with a feeling of accomplishment and delight. Then I wipe the knife clean and put it away."
"Well done!" said the Prince. "From the words of my cook, I have learned the secret of growth."
From the Taoist viewpoint, much of the art of strategy and life consists of learning the cook's lesson.
HEALTH CARE FRENCH STYLE. I love Business Week. You just never know what you're going to find in there, but usually there's something interesting. The current issue has a favorable article about the French system of universal health care, which has been rated the best in the world. Here's the beginning:
Michael Moore's documentary Sicko trumpets France as one of the most effective providers of universal health care. His conclusions and fist-in-your-gut approach may drive some Americans up the wall. But whatever you think of Moore, the French system—a complex mix of private and public financing—offers valuable lessons for would-be health-care reformers in the U.S.
The whole article is worth a look.
DAMN, THAT IS ONE BIG BIRD! They just keep digging up more cool stuff. The latest is the prehistoric bird Argentavis magnificens, which weighed around 150 pounds, had a 23 foot wingspan and could actually fly.
It lived about 6 million years ago in South America and was so big it couldn't take flight just by flapping it's wings but had to glide from high places. Some might consider that a limitation, but who wants to be in a flatlanded place anyway?
Here are some pictures of the critter from Google images.
GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED