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Trying Not to Try: the Power of Spontaneity | Edward Slingerland | TEDxMaastricht

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  • Published on Nov 2, 2016
  • Edward Slingerland - a Professor of Asian Studies at the University of British
    Columbia - claims that recent research suggests that many aspects of a satisfying
    life - such as happiness and spontaneity - are best pursued indirectly. The early
    Chinese philosophers knew this, and they wrote extensively about an effortless way
    of being in the world. We’ve long been told that the way to achieve our goals is
    through careful reasoning and conscious effort. Can prof. dr. Slingerland change
    your perspective to stop trying?
    How can you try, not to try? Dr. Slingerland has combined his studies of early
    Chinese philosophy with cutting-edge research from modern cognitive science,
    evolutionary studies, and social psychology to explore why this paradox is real, why
    is exists, and how finding a way around it is the key to both social cooperation and
    personal success. Slingerland is the author of ‘Trying Not to Try: Ancient China,
    Modern Science and the Power of Spontaneity”
    Edward Slingerland is a Professor of Asian Studies, as well as adjunct in the
    departments of Psychology and Philosophy, at the University of British Columbia. He
    holds degrees in sinology and religious studies, and is the author of, most
    recently, ‘Trying Not to Try: Ancient China, Modern Science and the Power of
    Spontaneity” (2014).
    This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at ted.com/tedx

Comments • 108

  • Khalid h
    Khalid h Year ago +12

    Absolutely wonderful, one of the best TED I have ever watched, it explains why it's so difficult to make efforts.

  • M Mendi
    M Mendi Year ago +3

    He just gave words to the abstract thoughts in my mind ...and not in a timely fashion. I had put aside this paradox of the universe, and how it shows itself in different situations differently, away at the back of my wandering mind, only to have seen this video today. Thank you Prof. Slingerland for getting me closer to this whole ...THING.

  • Nicholas Dunbar

    many things fall under this idea : eliminate self monitoring and second guessing to improve cognitive capacity, higher stress burns more oxygen while performing physically taxing tasks in front of an audience, growth mindset or judge your performance by how much you act instead of by the results, etc.

  • NatHarwood
    NatHarwood 5 years ago +72

    Absolutely fascinating. I've thought about the paradox in a social context - for example, why is it jokes are laughed at when the person telling it appears not to care about 'audience' response, why is it small body movements can reduce the impact of what your saying (for example, leaning too far forwards in your chair engaging in conversation, always checking people's faces like a keeno to see how they're reacting to what you're saying)..

  • Neylson Braga

    Best TED I ever heard. He must have been in the zone to deliver so much, so clearly, so efficiently. His book "Trying not to try", which I read, goes into the details.

  • Wang Jinfeng

    I think the difficulty to be Wu Wei (not is try) is we can't give up pursuing success. Once when we consider failure is acceptable for our life, even thought purse no gain, we can be that state.

  • EC
    EC 2 years ago +4

    Thank you for this talk, Mr. Edward and Ted Talk. This is eye opening.

  • Krishna Bhaavin
    Krishna Bhaavin 4 years ago +15

    I loved how much he managed to pack in this talk. I have read his book TRYING NOT TO TRY and found it pretty good. Its interesting how the same truth is echoed by Slingerland and Alan Watts but each in his unique way. No wonder Watts' work is perhaps more comprehensive but that doesn't take anything away from Slingerland's work for me.

  • OnlineMeditation
    OnlineMeditation 3 years ago +13

    Excellent articulation of a profound subject!

  • NOVA NETWORK
    NOVA NETWORK 2 years ago +6

    This is just right on time for me 🙏🏾✨

  • Ciaran Dudley
    Ciaran Dudley 4 years ago +4

    Great talk. When our consciousness is intentional, it has ipso facto, an object 'in tension' [with itself]; and this tension is just what we want during 'flow' states. The problem lies not in our consciousness but rather in our self-consciousness, i.e. our intentionality of our intentionality, which recursively gets in the way of and thereby precludes the free flow of spontaneous action. The way around this 'intentional blockage ' is to take an 'intentional detour' by means of another object which we rationally know to be syllogistically linked with the real object of our intention despite its not being an immediate object of our understanding. We must, as it were, use the cunning of our reason to sabotage the cleverness of our understanding, just as our understanding sabotages the [false] certainty our immediate sense-perception when we 'see through' an optical illusion. We could therefore define 'wu-wei' as the ability to 'act through' an intelligible illusion by 'going around' it - in precisely the same way that our understanding can 'see through' an optical illusion by ignoring or 'going around' its immediate appearance in perception. It is important to remember that there is this volitional aspect to 'wu-wei' since it has to do with action or the will. (Indeed, it is arguably a practical category in this sense, not a theoretical one.) Actuality itself is already the interfusion of individual activity and universal being and therefore just in virtue of being we are already acting. The trick to 'wu-wei' lies in seeing that the act has already taken place. Yoda says, 'Do or do not - there is no try,' but perhaps we should 'do' one better than the Jedi master himself and say, 'be or be not - there is no act.'

  • TE Williams

    Awoke to your interview on CBC radio this morning and it was a lovely introduction to another Monday morning coming up to 2 years of living in these years of Covid. I can do this..

  • Asha Zahid
    Asha Zahid 3 years ago +5

    Absolutely fascinating.

  • xyz
    xyz  +1

    still, in the day and age, we need those great ancient thinkers more than ever.

  • cy world
    cy world 3 years ago +55

    Genuine tendency or wants of the hot or subconscious is wu wei. In nature, flows of water and wind seek the path of least resistance. This doesn't mean that those forces are weak, it is just that their power is directed towards their nature tendencies. In western cultures, the belief system is polar opposite of eastern philosophy. This means they are not in the Tao (the way.) Therefore the wants of the conscious is not in synchronized with that of the hot, subconscious. It is almost like the stream wanting to flow uphill because that is where it is wanted by villagers. The wu wei solution would be for the villagers to come down from the mountain and live by the stream. Thus doing without not doing.

  • OddDou
    OddDou Year ago +8

    Some times I wonder why trivial subjects get millions of views while these deep mind opening subjects don't!

  • Zahra
    Zahra 2 years ago +2

    Incredible talk

  • Messenger
    Messenger Year ago +6

    Thanks RU-clip algorithms for suggesting this video. Finally a practical explanation of Wu Wei.

  • Peter Khew

    德 is better translated as virtue, which is a quality that is considered universally good. The simplest explanation is that virtue (德) comes from being natural (自然) and spontaneous (无为). That's why Taoism and Confucianism are sort of polar opposites of each other, with the latter emphasising on using effort (用功) to achieve virtue (德).

  • Steve Deasy

    Information dense. A real test of my ability to stay in flow.