Of Mice, and Man


Wu wei, or non-doing, is a Taoist practice involving letting one’s action follow the simple and spontaneous course of nature rather than interfering with the harmonious working of universal law by imposing arbitrary and artificial forms.  In other words, it is the action of non-action.

“As the planets revolve around the sun, they “do” this revolving, but without “doing” it. As trees grow, they simply grow without trying to grow. Thus knowing how and when to act is not knowledge in the sense that one would think, “now I should do this,” but rather just doing it, doing the natural thing. The goal of spiritual practice for the human being is, according to Laozi, the attainment of this natural way of behaving.” – Wikipedia

Learn more at Wikipedia : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wu_wei
Learn more at Merriam Webster : http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wu%20wei

Suggested Prompts:

  • Share a picture of something that represents uncontrived growth or movement
  • Discuss your favorite example of wu wei in nature
  • Consider, develop, or discuss the role of wu wei on society
  • Write a poem about the harmonious working of universal law
  • Share a story about wu-wei in your own life
  • … or make up your own prompt related to the theme!


As I came to sit at my computer this morning, I was composing a post about the wee visitor in my kitchen. This last spell of sharp weather has encouraged the mice back in and one of them has chewed a large piece out of my treasured Sil-Pat rolling pin! A very expensive piece of my kitchen kit is now ruined.

I don’t mind mice. I know some folks will gasp in horror that I have a laid-back attitude to mice in my kitchen – and maybe rightly. My difficulty is that I cannot kill anything – not outright and deliberately. Not even a spider  – where there would be an obvious justification for getting it before it gets me. 🙂

Normally, I rely on the cats to do what Nature intends. This past winter I have had no evidence of even a single kill. True, they are ageing, but I think that we may blame a shift in their diet to a higher-value food than previously. My cats are boys – and they only kill when hungry, unlike the girls who need to practise for their day of need, should they produce  kits. Boys are lazy:

Teddy, NOT doing his job
Teddy, NOT doing his job

“What Nature intends” is the key to my outlook, really. Mice have co-habited with Man since forever. We remain active on this planet; I do not think an odd field-mouse on the premises constitutes a threat to my survival. Besides, they are beautiful. I love to watch them, their bodies so sleek and rippling with muscle when they move. Stunning wee beasties, they are.

Don’t worry – I ensure that surfaces are cleaned and disinfected before I get the food out. Overall, I am happy to do a little work while allowing these visitors a respite from the elements. They will leave soon enough, once the weather warms a little.

Ultimately, I would far rather that the mice had no opportunity to do real damage (Oh, my lovely rolling pin!) but that the cats did their bit to control the invasion.

So, when I read the prompt, I realised that I was ahead of the game and I had my post. I was going to leave it here, but you know me, never a short post when a long one may be found…

The first suggested prompt brought to mind this tree, at Newmillerdam, near Wakefield


Those roots have always spelled out “unconstrained” to me and I have often thought how they would have been tamed and made safe had the tree been growing in a garden instead of a wilder environment. Instead, the tree roots have been left to tame the rocks on the ground. I love the way that they appear to be gathering them in. For what purpose, one wonders. (Can you see the face?)

If I understand Wu-wei correctly, it can be summarised in the common parlance as just going with the flow?

The flow
The flow

Of course, “the flow” is a marvellous example of Wu-wei in action in Nature. Big rocks offer no resistance to the power of water passing

River Livet in flow
River Livet in flow

Nature and the unresisted force of water bring great mountains down to smooth pebbles

Time has its way
Time has its way

and this all just happens. Nobody got in the way of Time and Nature.

So, I got to thinking about the relationship of Wu-wei to Entropy and the tendency of all things to break down and return to Nature. That in turn made me consider my own peculiar addiction to what has been termed “Beautiful Decay.” Any swift scan of my photo files will show a preponderance of Autumnal scenes, of ruin and rust, old broken and discarded things left to rot; fungi, moss and lichen abound. Everything tends to move from (Man’s) Order to (Nature’s) Disorder.

Left to rot
Left to rot

The upshot was that I realised that I had adopted a Wu-wei way of living many years ago. I do not intervene. My garden runs wild. As for my home – well, I have mentioned before that my thoughts are not dissimilar to Quentin Crisp’s; I confess that the tendency is to Decay…

This old house?
This old house?

Fundamentally, it is my way to move through the moment and to disturb as little as possible – especially the mice and the dust. Come to think on it, Ted seems to be of the same ilk.

(Have I got the concept right?) (Does it matter? It’s a great post anyway, I think.)


  1. March 13, 2013

    It’s DEFINITELY a great post– full of stone-gathering trees with faces, Doris Day, the end of an age-old war between mice and everything else, love for rolling pins, and phrases like “beautiful decay”, “entropy”, and “que sera sera”. I enjoyed every word of it. 😀 I think I think you are indeed living a wu wei life– and it’s beautiful! Thanks for participating!!

  2. March 14, 2013

    Love this attitude, and yes I saw the tree face straight away! Ted looks very comfy.

    • March 14, 2013

      Hi Carole

      As for Ted – well, he gets plenty of practice. I am sure a cat was never more idle

  3. March 14, 2013

    Wonderful post. Wish I could write big post like this.

  4. spinninggill
    March 15, 2013

    I was waiting for a photo of the rolling pin. 😉
    Great post as always.

  5. March 20, 2013

    This is a very lovely post and it flows from one thought to another with great fluidity. Very wu wei. Teddy looks so utterly peaceful, that he made me smile. I think the tree is gathering rocks!

    • March 20, 2013

      Thank you, that’s very complimentary

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