All (repost from 2004)

Jin. All, exhausted, completely, entirely, end. At the bottom of the symbol for all is an elevated dish or vessel. Above it, a hand is shown with a lid to the vessel. Nothing more is to be put in, so the task is complete and at an end.

Always complete your actions.

When you do something, don’t hold back. Shoot it all, go for it all. Don’t wait for “a better time,” because the better times are built on what you do today. Don’t be selfish with your skills, because the skills of tomorrow are built upon the performances of today.

It’s so tempting to say, “I’ll keep it for myself and build it up to something really big later.” Only later never comes. By waiting too long, the end catches up with you. You willl then be covered like the lid in Jin, ans you will never have had a chance to act.

To be with Tao is to live a creative life. To live a creative life always means that you express who you are. And expression is never helped by suppression. Expression always benefits from coming out. Then more inspiration will come from that source.

When you act, act completely. Follow through. Do everything that has to be done. Be like the fire that burns completely clean: only from that pure stage can you then take the next step.

Deng Ming Dao, Everyday Tao


One of the things that bothers me the most about my husband is he rarely finishes things. He will do about 90% of the task, then leave the rest. Tihs is far better than when I used to call him “Mr. 80 percent” though. (I was a meaner person then). A lot of the time it is not finishing up or cleaning up or putting tools away. The reason it bothers me is because it is one of the things that bothers me most in myself, of course. I remember to finish fully when I’m aware of it, but when I’m tired or not feeling well I tend to just leave things undone.

My dad always talked about what he would do when he retired — build a workshop and do woodworking and such. Except he never got to retire, he died of cancer before ever getting the chance. My mom used to talk about selling the house and living in a small apartment, maybe in Hawaii, but never did. She passed away in the same house, leaving me all the mess of the house and her papers and finances to clean up, and matters unsettled for my disabled sister and nephew. It’s been a year now and I’m still dealing with this mess of her estate. I’ve pretty much vowed not to do this to my own children.

I think it is hard for people to fully finish things or give their all to a task because they figure there will always be time to do things later. “Never enough time to do it right, always time to do it later” seems to be our motto. No wonder we admire fine craftsmanship so much — as long as others do the hard work.

I see this a lot right now in our disposable culture — people get something cheap because if it doesn’t work or breaks, they can always get another one. There isn’t the appreciation of fine work anymore. I recently spent my time to repaint several plastic chairs (yes, you can get paint for plastic) rather than buy new ones, because I wanted a certain color and I wanted to save the faded, scratched chairs. It would have been easy to just buy new chairs, but they wouldn’t have been the color I wanted and it would have been wasteful.

We value stuff over time, then complain because we spend all our time working to get cheap stuff we don’t even appreciate or enjoy. It seems crazy, but that is what Americans value. And then don’t understand when someone doesn’t want to buy into this culture, doesn’t want the bigger house or fancier car, but perhaps a smaller, more personal house and older car. People admire my garden, but don’t want to take the time to create one of their own. Little do they know it hardly takes any time at all, because they simply don’t want to find out. They don’t want to invest in learning what plants work well in their area and then plant those that take little maintenance, They would rather get what looks pretty now, and then complain about maintaining it later.

I spend a lot of time to do the things I do. It’s just that I look at that time as an investment, to make time for myself later to do other things. Not when I retire, or when I’m older, but when I want to do something else. Or, as W. S. Gilbert said, and the quote on my board here reminds me, “I do nothing in particular, but I do it very well!”