Do You Wu Wei?

Call it Wu Wei or going with the “flow”, or just slowing down, or whatever you want, it apparently is a very good thing.

While I have been to Italy and a few other stops along the Mediterranean, I wouldn’t say I know much about living like a Mediterranean-ite, but I’m trying to learn. I’ve read the diet books because there is no doubt that it is a better way to eat. Not only am I not a Mediterranean, I am also not a dietician or nutritionist, but I do know this, for a few years now I’ve been eating closer to the Mediterranean Diet and I feel much better for it.

But it turns out it’s not just their diet we should adopt, but the way they eat too: slower, and with people we like, taking time to enjoy every bite, appreciating the nuances of flavor and texture, with conversation that leads to gratitude and laughter and joy instead of alienating and pissing people off.

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
— J.R.R. Tolkien

As I mentioned a few posts back, I have a new turntable and a rediscovered appreciation for playing music on vinyl long-play records.

Here’s the deal, there is a process to it, kind of like Mediterranean eating: First you look through the albums and make a selection. You remove the inner sleeve from the cover, and then the record from that. You place it on the platter and turn it on. Then you gently lift the tone arm and place the needle on the smooth outer margin of the record. Now you listen as you watch the platter spin. The process requires you to slow down, to pay more attention, to engage more with the music. Probably there are photos and great artwork on the album cover and maybe the lyrics to the songs are printed on the sleeve. It’s all very real. And the sound… Oh, the sound. You can almost see the musicians playing. If you are young and have only heard digital music, I invite you to come over for a listen. Seriously.

Imagine sitting with headphones on and listening to Simon & Garfunkel sing this:

Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy
Hello, lamppost, what’cha knowin’?
I’ve come to watch your flowers growin’
Ain’t’cha got no rhymes for me?
Doot-in doo-doo, feelin’ groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy
I got no deeds to do
No promises to keep
I’m dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep
Let the morning time drop all its petals on me
Life, I love you
All is groovy

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I think I can live in this state, in the groove so to speak. But it beats “the rut”, right? We can slow down, pay more attention, listen more carefully, see more clearly. Think back, and remember if you can, what child-like wonder was like. 

Remember, for example, the first time you “fell in love”? Like water in a stream, you go with the flow, you’re just sort of carried along. My first love was doomed from the start though. The girl of my dreams had another.

Maybe Elvis was right about what wise men say—that only fools rush in. And the Drifters too, when they sang:

Well, fools fall in love in a hurry
Fools give their hearts much too soon
Just play them two bars of Stardust
Just hang out one silly moon, oh, oh

Image by Cerith Wyn Evans

Image by Cerith Wyn Evans

Speaking of playing two bars of Stardust, here’s an experiment for slowing down to see if you can experience Wu Wei. You’ll need a good version of Stardust to listen to. I recommend Willie Nelson’s version, but Nat King Cole’s is the classic. You can get either on iTunes for a buck-twenty-five. Also have a cup of really good coffee or beverage of your choice.

The Willie Nelson version is nearly four minutes long. Take those four minutes to listen and savour, blocking out everything else. Be careful though—you might fall in love (again). Just go with the flow.

Young lovers see a vision of the world redeemed by love. That is the truest thing they ever see, for without it life is death.
— Wendell Berry from Jayber Crow