Derek's Private Study
Tao: Dynamic Balance
It is a common misconception that Tao cultivation gives one a sort of freedom that lets one ignore social conventions. Some have expressed the notion that Tao practitioners transcend beyond rules and societal strictures, so that man-made limitation and artificial constraints have no power over them. This may sound good at first, but is in fact a shaky concept without a sound foundation.
The Tao isn't, and has never been, wholesale permission to do whatever you happen to feel like without being considerate of others, especially when they can be adversely affected by your actions.
I have known self-styled Tao cultivators who do not understand this. To them, going with the flow means total freedom from any restraints. For instance, there is this one fellow who is habitually late. He doesn't care if he keeps other people waiting. His lack of respect for others eventually costs him his job and, subsequently, consultation contracts. No one wants to work with a flake, particularly a flake with Tao-like excuses for his personal failings.
The other fellow, a "master" who lives in San Francisco, is so "unbound by society's meaningless rules" that he will urinate in back alleys whenever the need arises. And since he is also completely unconcerned with the perception of others in regards to his appearance, he never pays much attention to personal cleanliness. It probably won't surprise you that he has no friends.
Both of these individuals are mistaken about the Tao. They do not understand that Tao cultivation is in fact not absolute freedom or total lack of restraints, but a dynamic balance. A balance, for instance, between do-as-you-wish freedom and iron-will discipline. Absolute anything and total lack of anything are not states of equilibrium; they are extremes.
When other people are involved, the Tao is a balance that naturally forms between what you prefer and what others prefer. Social interactions create the flow; going with that flow in the most harmonious way means taking all factors into account and molding your actions or inactions accordingly. If what you want to do is hurtful to others, chances are it is something that goes against the flow that exists between you and them.
When that happens, you create negative consequences. The gentleman I spoke of gets fired; the "master" of San Francisco risks being arrested for public exposure. By their own actions and decisions they have made things difficult for themselves; they have gotten in their own way; they have blocked their own light.
These consequences are a hint that thinking only of one's own wants and needs probably isn't the best way to live life in a smooth, effortless and harmonious way. In other words... it isn't the Tao!