It’s now been over a year and a half since I started this project, and having worked through two translations—producing 162 entires and almost 400 pages of material—it’s time to bring it to an end. I went back and read my first entry, Day Zero, to remind myself why I started and reflect on how it went. Here was my initial plan:
each day, I’ll select a quote from a chapter of the text, and offer you a short response to it. It may be only a sentence or a question; it may be a personal reflection along the lines of a journal entry; it may take the form of metaphysical musing, or maybe even mild moralizing; it may come off as clichéd, banal self-help or cultural appropriation; it may be social or political commentary; it may even, heaven forfend, get a little “woo-woo.”
And that’s about what I did. What surprised me as the project unfolded was how naturally the text opened up portals to things you wouldn’t normally associate with Daoism—allegorical interpretations of the Bible, critiques of neoliberal political economy, the folly of space billionaires. Over time, I began half-joking to myself that if I turned it into book, the subtitle would be “A Christian Self-Help Book About Politics.”
And turning the Dao Du Jour into a book is exactly what I plan to do. This was of course an intention at the outset, but it was only tentative and vague. But as the project picked up momentum, at the urging of several of my regular readers, and after consulting with a literary agent, that intention strengthened and crystallized.
It’s an odd thing scribbling down strange little musings on the regular and sending them out into the infinite interwebs, rarely knowing who is reading or how it lands for them. In that first post, I reflected on the dyad of reading and writing in relation to the yin-yang symbol:
One of the most obvious features of the yin-yang symbol is that dualities are interconnected and mutually interpenetrate each other; there is black in all white and white in all black. Reading is predominantly passive (yin-ish), writing mainly active (yang-ish). When you read, you’re reading something someone wrote, and when you write, you’re writing something someone else will (hopefully) read. Nevertheless, reading only works if the reader is bringing something to the table, and writing only sings if it’s open to the inspiration of the moment and mindful of the reader to whom it’s addressed. To read, you have to grapple with the writer, and to write, you have to listen, not just to the muse, but to the reader. You have to do something like dance.
Here, I was talking about myself reading the Daodejing and writing about it. What interests me now that the writing is done, though, is what you readers experienced. I’ve heard from many of you over the last year and a half, but want to hear more.
What made sense, what didn’t, and how did it help you make sense of the world?
What shapes and constellations did you detect emerging from the essays (essay literally means “attempts”).
What attempts succeeded, what failed, and what did success mean?
In keeping with the Daoist spirit of wuwei—“doing without doing”—consider the Dao Du Jour “done not done.” And not just in the sense that this ending is the beginning of bringing forth a book from the bevy of blog posts. The writing is done but not done—like all action, I trust it will bear karmic fruit in my own life and, I hope, in yours.
Thanks for whatever you brought to the table. Thanks for grappling with my ideas. Thanks for dancing.