Why 2 Is My New Favorite Number
Laozi, The Dao and Harnessing Nature
What’s your most memorable moment?
The first thing that popped into my head was the day I read my first research paper (just as any teenager would, of course 😉). It was about CRISPR Cas9, a gene editing tool.
A gene EDITING tool! We can EDIT our genes!! It was complete INSANITY to me that this was possible, and that I didn’t have a clue about any of this before.
In that moment, it was around midnight, my (sleep-deprived) eyes were glued to the computer, and I wasn’t paying attention to anything else. Because my mind was blown🤯
It sent me down a rabbit hole of reading countless other papers, which eventually led me to start researching genetics/biology/neuroscience. It’s a huge interest and passion of mine nowadays, and put me on the path of trying to solve some of the biggest problems in the space.
After hearing my attempt at a #inspirational story, you’d think that reading that research paper was the best thing that ever happened to me.
That’s also probably why it was such a memorable moment for me. Since our brain can only hold so much information, we tend to remember those moments that either impact us really positively (in my case) or really negatively.
We tend to see things as either one way or the other
That’s how we make sense of the world.
We either see goodness or badness, beauty or ugliness, happiness or sadness, based on how they affect us (especially in the short term).
That’s why we love eating Big Macs (or in my case, Beyond burgers) and feel all happy when someone compliments us, but might hate when we feel excluded by people or when we miss the bus and have to actually walk for once.
It may not be the same in the long term, but in the short term, it either feels good/bad, or we’ve learned based on past experiences to see it as good/bad.
Sure, walking can be good for your health, and on the flip side, Big Macs can be unhealthy. But we tend to just pick 1 side, good or bad, and roll with it.
Laozi knew this wasn’t the right way.
Laozi was a philosopher from Ancient China. He was quirky. He wasn’t like other Eastern philosophers like Confucius and Buddha, many of whom saw the world as a place full of suffering.
He saw the world as a harmonious place. Not because we don’t have suffering, but because all the chaos in the world is balanced by harmony. It’s a 2 sided approach.
2 was probably Laozi’s Favorite Number ✌️
If I told Laozi about how the best day of my life was when I read my first research paper, he’d tell me to realize that even though it brought so many benefits, it’s not all good. Nothing is all good.
What if I end up creating a new genetic engineering tool that has the potential to *accidentally* wipe out the population? I obviously wouldn’t be trying to do that, but there’s always a possibility it could happen, at it all would have stemmed from that first paper.
I know it seemed like by pointing out the more negative side of my experience, Laozi was (hypothetically) trying to rain on my parade. But really, his goal was to get rid of the one sided approach.
There’s 2 sides to any story, and there’s always an opposite. By understanding that, we can understand how the world works 🌎
“There is always two, being and nonbeing, beauty and ugliness give birth to each other, that’s why sage dwells in nonaction, and carries out the doctrine without words” -Laozi
Reading about the idea of “2” made me realize how much we really don’t know about the world (check out my article on Socrates for more on that), and how boxing ourselves into making one-sided decisions makes our views even more narrow.
He used this idea of “2" in The Dao, one of his principles. The Dao is not really a law or a guide. It’s more like a description of a path (which is what Dao translates to). Like a force that makes the world go ‘round, based on this “2”.
This force also shows that change is inevitable, because there’s always that opposing side. When you’re at your happiest, at some point you’ll come down again, just like the cycling of the seasons. The best thing we can do is live through it, and embrace it🌤️
What we can learn from the Dao is that:
- There’s always 2 perspectives to everything, and we make a one sided decisions without understanding the big picture, we’re missing out.
- Change is inevitable, so adapt!
Side note: Also realized the first rule of the Dao is, don’t talk about the Dao. Guess we’re breaking the rule already 😏
“The Dao that can be spoken of is not the real Dao” -Laozi
Laozi was like an ancient hippie 🤟
If I were to describe him in a word, it’d be: chillin’.
He was a funky guy. He described all his concepts using proverbs and analogies, rather than just cold, hard facts and words, because that’s what life really is. A bunch of stories.
Fun fact: the Yin-Yang sign was created by him, because it shows that not only do the calm Yin and brash Yang live in harmony, but they depend upon each other ☯️
He wrote a script called the Tao Te Ching, with quotes about his ideas that sound a bit like modern poetry. Notice how they’re all about seeing the other side of things:
“Water is the softest, yet it can penetrate mountains and Earth. This shows clearly the principle of softness overcoming hardness”
“A tree that cannot bend will crack in the wind. Thus by nature’s own decree, the soft and the gentle are triumphant”
The biggest reason why Laozi was a hippie is that he was big on nature (as you can see).
Nature shows us that even with conflicting sides, everything ends up working out, and nothing is every created or destroyed, only recycled. Mother Nature finds a way. I guess you could say she’s a NATURAL!
“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished”
We can look at nature to not only see examples of the “2”, but to see that following the way of nature gives us the most harmony 🌴
But Laozi is ancient. How can I implement this today?
What I love about Laozi’s principle of the 2 sides, and his application of nature, is that it’s simple!
Nowadays our lives are filled with so much mumbo-jumbo, so much information being thrown at us from our social media accounts to our work emails. By following simple steps, it’d be cool to see how that contrasts and improves our busy lives.
The Dao and the Tao Te Ching are both principles/explanations, with examples. So I’ve decided to make some tangible action items, which I’ve put into (you guessed it!) 2 categories:
Doing What’s Natural
- Have a balance in how you spend your time. I tend to spend a lot of time in front of my computer, but naturally, humans didn’t do that. Make sure to block some time per week to just go outside, clear your mind, learn something new, and change up your routine.
- Fulfill your basic needs of food/water/shelter, but beyond that, live simply. That doesn’t mean you can’t have extra stuff. It means you shouldn’t hurry to get as much as you can, because things are always changing, and more stuff = more attachment.
- Literally spend time in nature. Camping trips get deep when you realize you’re observing the Dao in the wild 🏕️
- Train yourself to think contrarian, by surrounding yourself with opposing people. I know I spend a lot of time with like minded people. But by being around people who don’t share our views (and learning to not take it personally), we can get a glimpse into the other side, which can be just as valid.
- Reflect. Realize that things are always changing, so it makes no sense to just optimize for short term and get attached to your current life. If being pepper-spray-tester #5 isn’t something you enjoy and won’t help you achieve your goals in the future, change it up, and reflect on what you really want 💭
- Always be thinking about the “then what”, to adapt to change. If something hits you out of the blue, get into the mindset of looking forward. Make an action plan for yourself of things to do next.
2 has become my new favorite number. I’m really pumped to see the impact on Laozi’s action items on my life!! After all, Laozi did believe the best teacher didn’t use words, but actions.
Some 🔑 Takeaways:
- We tend to either see things as good/bad, beautiful/ugly, one way/another, and it blinds us to the nature of how things actually work
- Laozi was an ancient Chinese philosopher who introduced the Dao, a force that makes the world work, and it’s based on the idea of always having 2 sides
- Nature is a great guide on how to achieve harmony
- Implementing the Dao into our lives is all about doing what’s natural, and having awareness
Remember your most memorable moment? I challenge you to reevaluate it. Yes, maybe my genetics research could have a side to it that’s mind-blowing in the wrong way.
But I’m excited to use this new outlook on the world for the rest of my moments, to open my mind, follow what’s natural, and be one with the 2!!
Thanks for reading, hope you learned something new! If you had fun reading this article/have some questions, feel free to connect with me on Linkedin and shoot me a message, follow my Medium, and stay tuned!! See ya :)