Each day of our life flows by like a river and each moment escapes us. Ultimately nothing can be captured, and like the Zen phrase goes, “as expected you can’t grasp it”.
The Tao of Flow: Embracing the Fleetingness of Life
In order to demonstrate and embody this, the Chinese performance artist Song Dong stood in the flow of the great Lhasa River in Tibet in 1996, “stamping” the water with a large wooden block inscribed with the Chinese pictograph for water (shui). The performance portrays the fleetingness of all things—one of the essential meaning of the Tao—and is a commentary on the impossibility of laying claim to anything. The artist said, “I exerted great force, but in the end left no trace.” Nothing can be “stamped and sealed”, nothing owned including the land of Tibet, now largely in the hands of the Chinese. In the midst of the river of our lives, we all attempt this. We take photos, make purchases, form ideas and try to “speak our truth”. Half-submerged, feeling the steady pull of the current, I can visualize Song Dong repeating the stamping motion hundreds of times. Each slap of the water is futile but at the same time captures the essence of the Tao. Traceless, evanescent, continuous, all that we do is an expression of this flow.