Non-intervention policy


To know the Way,
We go the Way
The way we do
The things we do.
It’s all there in front of you,
But if you try too hard to see it,
You’ll only become confused.

I am me,
And you are you,
But when you do
The things that you can do,
You will find the Way,
And the Way will follow you.

– ‘The Tao of Pooh’

Taoism infers no-intervention. In the seeking of the Way (Tao) if one tries too hard to capture the essence of it, one only finds oneself more confused. As the life itself always finds its way, Taoism advises understanding this flow of its way, admitting that one is already a part of this current. There is no need to intervene since the intervention only brings anxiety and unhappiness. The shade is there because the sun exists. Yet we tend to intervene the shade to bring the brightness when we can just wait for the energy cycle to rotate to bring back the sun to where the shade lays now.

I recently finished a book called ‘The Tao of Pooh’ which trespasses the insight of this Taoist way of perception, and here I’d like to scrap two conversations that Pooh delivered which I was fond of. One scene is where a friend asks Pooh why he isn’t doing anything. Pooh replied; “Because it is a beautiful day to enjoy.” The friend kept telling Pooh that listening radio would be helpful to understand better the world around, and when Pooh switched on the radio, the news delivered a terrible accident taken place in Los Angeles. Pooh demanded, “Knowing this, how I can understand the world better?” Pooh said he wasn’t doing ‘nothing’, yet he was doing ‘something’, like listening to the songs of birds. When the friend asked to Pooh what they are singing about, he replied; “That it is a beautiful day to enjoy.”

The second story is about why doing nothing is something. “For Taoists, nothing represents something, and since it is something, nothing doesn’t mean nothing at all.” In this logic, I’ve reflected the philosophical importance of the non-violence movement led by Gandhi. Being able to say that ‘I’m doing nothing’ is a choice of doing something, as a chosen matter for the problem-solving. And since it implies non-intervention, it is a violence-free approach that I should value utmost. As with an old quotation, “A wise man once said nothing.” He surely understood the non-intervention.

These two stories I reflected can be applied not only to the one’s life to find his Way but to a relationship between one and his surroundings. What does it mean to do nothing in any human relationship? It would be a non-intervention policy that implies that no correction is needed for anyone by any others. Yet we find this extremely idealistic. Parents want to set their desire on their children’s path. Sibling’s competition changes the direction of development for each. A lover imposes the responsibility of a happy relationship. Major human relations are about intervention between individuals, and since it is about intervention, active or passive violence comes along. Not all of us practice Taoist principles to find and be the natural flow of different aspects of life, letting those in harmony despite differences that might hurt one’s ego, we end up hurting others’ ego instead of ours.

It relates to the famous philosophic irony that asked if we could jump into the same river twice, as the second time we jump in, the river would be somewhat different. Taoism understands that it’s not the matter of the river being an identical existence, rather be an identical existence the river should constantly be changing. When one stands in the middle of the river, he blocks and intervenes the flow of the river. The non-intervention, which leads non-violence, is for him to be a part of the river to flow together. Intentionally or unintentionally, we are standing on many different rivers interacting between them as the matter of forming relationships. Yet our capability reaches the limit to be like every river one interacts, to resolve the conflict we enhance our way of communication. It is interesting to understand in French that Way (Voie) and Voice (Voix) share the same pronunciation. To see (Voir) the Way (Voie), we should know (Savoir) better how we had (Avoir) our voices (Voix) to be able (Pouvoir) to equip (Pourvoir) a non-violence communication between the parties.

I feel so sentenced by your words,
I feel so judged and sent away,
Before I go I’ve got to know
Is that what you mean to say?
Before I rise to my defense,
Before I speak in hurt or fear,
Before I build that wall of words,
Tell me, did I really hear?
Words are windows, or they’re walls,
They sentence us, or set us free.
When I speak and when I hear,
Let the love light shine through me.
There are things I need to say,
Things that mean so much to me,
If my words don’t make me clear,
Will you help me to be free?
If I seemed to put you down,
If you felt I didn’t care,
Try to listen through my words
To the feelings that we share.

– Ruth Bebermeyer

Taoism is a religious practice along with other major religions such as Muslim or Christianity. But this approach to understanding the non-intervention should be understood as a universal morality that trespasses all other religions, for all religions quote for human kindness as the ultimate moral practice. Yet my confirmation needs to be made that this universal morality isn’t to judge others but to give a hint for thinking in general, as thinking itself is difficult task that many people simply judge and conclude to avoid such difficulty. At least it was difficult for Pooh to comprehend, but at the end, he was the one who exclaimed that he saw (“Je vois”).


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