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  • In order to understand what effortless action is you have to understand what effort is and

  • what effort feels like. And I think the best way to do that is the so-called stroop test.

  • So we're gonna flash a word on the screen and you should say aloud the color that it's

  • printed in. We don't care what the word says, just the color. So here it goes. All right.

  • So that was probably fairly easy. Did it fast. You had no confusion. I'm gonna flash another

  • word now. Same thing. Only want to know the color it's in. We don't care about what it

  • says. So unless you're some kind of space alien, you paused or you said the wrong thing.

  • You said green or you said gr-red. So that kind of feeling of having to stop yourself

  • and override a natural reaction and then impose another reaction, that's cognitive control.

  • That's effort.

  • And I understand very well from a cognitive science perspective how this works. So part

  • of your brain is detecting conflict between the parts of your brain that recognize color

  • and the parts that can read English if you're a native English speaker. And those two are

  • in conflict so the ACC, anterior cingulate cortex says danger, danger, we've got to resolve

  • this conflict. And then the prefrontal cortex, lateral prefrontal cortex is brought in to

  • resolve this issue. All of that takes a lot of time so that feeling of effort you have,

  • the -- it took you longer the second time. This gives you a sense of both what cognitive

  • control -- what effort feels like and also the limitations of it. Because it's hard you're

  • actually a little bit fatigued after you do that once. So in doing a stroop test then

  • has less self-control. And if you then offer them carrots versus cookies as a snack, even

  • if they're on a diet, they'll go for the cookies. You self-control that effort draws energy

  • down when we use it. And so this is why spontaneity is so important because if we had to go through

  • our lives exerting effort and cognitive control all the time we'd be basket cases before the

  • day was through.

  • Wu wei is an early Chinese term that means literally no doing or no trying. But I think

  • a better translation is effortless action. And it's the central spiritual ideal for these

  • early thinkers I look at. So the Confucians and the Daoists. And what it looks a little

  • bit like flow or being in the zone as an athlete. So you're very effective. You're moving through

  • the world in a very efficient way -- social world and physical world. But you don't have

  • a sense of doing anything. You don't have a sense of effort. You don't have a sense

  • of yourself as an agent. You kind of lose yourself in the activity you're involved in.

  • And you're not only efficacious in terms of skill in the world. You also have this power

  • that the early Chinese call -- unfortunately the Mandarin pronunciation is duh which sounds

  • kind of funny. It's this energy you kick off, an aura that you kick off when you're in a

  • state of wu wei. And this is why these early thinkers want wu wei because for both of them,

  • the Confucians and the Daoists it's the key to political and spiritual success. So if

  • you're a Confucian getting into a state of wu-wei gives you this power duh. And this

  • allows you to attract followers without having to force them or try to get them to follow

  • you. People just spontaneously want to follow you.

  • If you're a Daoist it's what relaxes people, puts them at ease and allows you to move through

  • the social world effectively without harm. So everybody wants this because it's a very

  • -- it's the key to success. But they're all involved in this tension then of how do you

  • try to be effortless. How do you try not to try.

  • So the first strategy is the early Confucian strategy which I refer to as carving and polishing

  • strategy which is essentially you're gonna try really hard for a long time. And if you

  • do that eventually the trying will fall away and you'll be spontaneous in the right way.

  • So you practice ritual, you engage in learning with fellow students and eventually somehow

  • at some point you make the transition from trying to having internalized these things

  • you're learning and being able to embody them in an effortless way.

  • The second strategy, the uncarved block or going back to nature strategy is the Daode

  • jing or the primitivists Daoists. And they essentially think the Confucian strategy is

  • doomed. If you are trying to be virtuous, if you're trying to be a Confucian gentleman,

  • you're never gonna be a Confucian gentleman. Anyone trying to be benevolent is never gonna

  • actually be benevolent. They're just gonna be this hypocrite.

  • And so their strategy is undo all this learning that you've been taught. So get rid of culture,

  • get rid of learning, actually physical drop out of society. So they want you to go live

  • in the countryside in a small village. It looks a lot like kind of 1960s hippie movement,

  • you know. Back to nature and get rid of technology. Get rid of all of the bad things that society

  • has done to us. there's good points to this strategy, too. One of the main insights I

  • think of the Daoists, these early Daoists is a way in which social values, social learning

  • can corrupt our natural preferences. So we're, you know, body images in advertising teach

  • women that they have to be anorexic if they're attractive. We're taught that we always need

  • to have the latest iPhone. So, you know, we have a perfectly good iPhone but then we see

  • the new iPhone and suddenly our old iPhone isn't good anymore.

  • And there's a lot of good literature on this in psychology on the hedonistic treadmill.

  • We're never quite happy with what we have. As soon as we get it we want the next thing.

  • And the Daode jing thinks Confucianism encourages that. And the solution to get off that hedonistic

  • treadmill was to just stop and go back to nature and be simple. So that's the uncarved

  • box strategy. Then another Confucian comes along named Mencius and he's essentially trying

  • to split the difference between the Confucians and the Daoists. So he says we have these

  • tendencies -- so this is to cultivate the sprout strategy. So we have these innate potentials

  • to be virtuous that are inside of us but they're fragile, they need help, they need to be watered

  • and weeded. He uses an agricultural metaphor which does a lot of work for him. So you need

  • to put effort in, you need to try but you also can't force it.

  • And his famous story about forcing it is this farmer who is unhappy because of his crops

  • aren't growing fast enough. So he goes out in the field and pulls on the sprouts to try

  • to get them to grow faster and pulls them out of the ground and kills them. You can't

  • try too hard. You have to try in a way that goes along with your natural tendencies and

  • strengthens them and guides them. So that's the Mencian strategy cultivating the sprouts.

  • And then finally there's a Daoist I look at the end who's named Zhuangzi who thinks that

  • the early Confucian strategy's misguided. That the primitivist reaction against it is

  • also misguided. Because both of them are convinced they're right and they know the right way

  • people should live. And Zhuangzi says we just don't know essentially. And the only way to

  • live properly is to make your mind completely empty and let the Dao, the way, pull you along.

  • So he has this idea that we have a force inside of us called the spirit that is of heavenly

  • origin and is normally repressed by our mind but we can get in touch with it. And when

  • we get in touch with it it guides us through the world in the proper way. So the famous

  • story from the Zhuangzi is is butcher Ding who's cutting up this ox and it falls apart

  • on the ground and it just looks like he's doing nothing. And the Lord is witnessing

  • the ceremony. He says, "How do you do this." And he says, "I don't do anything. All I do

  • is I shut down my senses. I shut down my rational mind and I let -- as he says -- my spiritual

  • desires carry me along. But essentially the spirit guides him into the proper way to act.

  • And so the Zhuangzi strategy is a letting go or forgetting. Just kind of clearing your

  • mind with the idea that the world will take you in the right way.

  • So if you want to learn more there are these four basic strategizes that the early Chinese

  • developed for obtaining spontaneity. And I'm gonna walk through each of those four and

  • talk about both why they make sense from a religious philosophical perspective and also

  • why they make sense from a modern cognitive scientific perspective. And also why no one

  • of them is actually 100 percent effective at all times for all people. Why we'd need

  • actually a grab bag of strategies to pull from because no one of them is actually fully

  • successful.

In order to understand what effortless action is you have to understand what effort is and

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自発性の科学。呉-魏を極める (The Science of Spontaneity: Mastering Wu-Wei)

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    VoiceTube に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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