What is “Dao”?

So what does “Dao” mean, anyway? I’ve had several thoughtful inquiries and it seems I should offer some explanation into the meaning of the term and its relevance to sea kayaking. (Hint: it has nothing to do with Java Data Access Objects in this context).

DaoMy earliest meaningful exposure to “Dao” dates back more than a dozen years ago when I was an avid learner of Chinese martial arts, particularly the internal art of taijiquan. Dao (sometimes written, “Tao”) is a complex concept from ancient Chinese philosophy, shared with Confucianism and Zen Buddhism, but not easily explained. It can be generally thought of as the flow of the universe, embracing action and existence, and intricately tied to nature and the natural world.

From my earliest contemplation of writing about sea kayaking, I knew that I wanted my work to reflect the diversity of the sport and my own eclectic interests. There’s a book that has been on my shelf for more than a decade, “The Dao of Taijiquan,” in which author Jou Tsung Hwa explores both the philosophy and technique of the ancient martial art. Recently, author Timothy Ferriss produced an audio book about Stoic philosophy, “The Tao of Seneca”. Dao readily emerged as a theme and it had a nice ring to it.

Here are a few of the connections I make between Dao and sea kayaking:

  • Dao is a complex term and the concept is not easily explained — sea kayaking has depth and nuance and skill and knowledge that defies an easy “how to” explanation
  • Dao represents “the way” or “the path” — what I seek to do with my project is to illustrate what I find interesting and illuminating about the path, hoping that it helps others to find their own way
  • Dao is about a living experience — I believe that our experience of life is enriched through sea kayaking
  • Dao is intricately linked with nature and the natural world — sea kayaking gets us out into nature and grounds us, so to speak, in the practical realm of the natural world
  • Dao can be roughly thought of as the flow of the Universe — sea kayaking is about charting our way through this little corner of the universe and flowing on water

“Dao” also sounds cool and is interesting to talk about.