Taoism Daoism Conflict

The Supreme Good

Pause • Reflect • Sundays on Pianodao

What are we to say, and how are we to live, in times of trauma, escalating suffering and conflict? On this site I often quietly apply the wisdom of Daoism to our piano playing journey, but what of its broader relevance? Faced with misery on multiple fronts, can Daoism offer any hope?

The great Daoist sage Lao Tzu lived in tumultuous times, too. The details of his life may have been obscured by the mists of time, but the conflicts of that era are well known, and they were brutal. Reading his classic Tao Te Ching, no wonder his deeply-considered response to the world as he found it continues to resonate with so many to this day.

Here, in Chapter 8 (translated with wonderful clarity by Stephen Mitchell), he sets out a profound ethical blueprint:

I do not have the naive optimism to believe that humanity will collectively awaken to the transformational power of Lao Tzu’s wisdom, or pursue the path of goodness and peaceful living which he so beautifully outlines in these few simple words.

Nor, it would seem, did he. Legend has it that Lao Tzu wrote this passage while pausing at the gatehouse before disappearing to live alone beyond the Great Wall, eschewing the bitter feuds and collective discord of his day.

And yet all these centuries later, Lao Tzu’s words are as fresh and ring as true as ever, “like water which nourishes all things without trying to”. At their most fundamental, his teachings illuminate a unique pathway for personal development and wellbeing, a way of peace that is mindfully travelled one step at a time, and which offers a journey of lasting transformation.

If I can pursue this supreme good with the same timeless values and clear-sightedness as Lao Tzu, let me do so. His words are surely worth pondering with care and sincere self-reflection.

Not only can they help us foster a quieter, more focused context for our piano playing; they direct us towards a safe space for healing.

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Published by

Andrew Eales

Andrew Eales is a widely respected piano educator, writer and composer based in Milton Keynes UK. His book HOW TO PRACTISE MUSIC is published by Hal Leonard.