Central to the understanding of Chuang Tzu and all Taoist thought is the concept of wu wei, which means non-action or non-doing or, more exactly, the action of non-action (just as wu nien is the thought of non-thought and wu hsin the mind of non-mind). This paradoxical way of thinking is typical of Taoism — and, later, of Zen. Such acting without activity is not to be confused with a passive quietism; in fact it’s quite the opposite. You can view it more as an unresisting and effortless state of “going with the flow”; of aligning oneself with the elemental cycles of the natural world; of feeling free, unconditioned, “right”; of being super-awake, with heightened senses and awareness.
Related to this is the recognition of the complementarity of opposites and of the constantly changing nature of life. Thomas Merton explains these two essential insights in The Way Of Chuang Tzu:
“The key to Chuang Tzu’s thought is the complementarity of opposites, and this can be seen only when one grasps the central ‘pivot’ of Tao which passes squarely through both ‘Yes’ and ‘No’, ‘I’ and ‘Not-I’. Life is a continual development. All beings are in a state of flux. Chuang Tzu would have agreed with Herakleitos. What is impossible today may suddenly become possible tomorrow. What is good and pleasant today may, tomorrow, become evil and odious. What seems right from one point of view may, when seen from a different aspect, manifest itself as completely wrong.”
To end with two more paradoxical axioms from Chuang Tzu:
“No one is so wrong as the man who knows all the answers.”
“You never find happiness until you stop looking for it.”