So then, here is a conception of nature as something you must trust; outside nature – the birds, the bees, the flowers, the mountains, the clouds, and inside nature, human nature. Now nature isn’t trustworthy, completely. It will sometimes let you down with a wallop, but that’s the risk you take, that’s the risk of life. What is the alternative? “I do not trust nature at all. It has got to be watched.” You know what that leads to? It leads to 1984 and Big Brother, it leads to the totalitarian state where everybody is his brother’s policeman, where everybody is watching everybody else to report them to the authorities. Where you can’t trust your own motivations, where you have to have a psychoanalyst in charge of you all the time to think, to be sure that you do not think dangerous thoughts or peculiar thoughts. And you report all peculiar thoughts to your analyst and your analyst would keep a record of them and report them to the government. And everybody is busy in keeping records of everything. It’s much more important to record what happens than what happens. This is already eating us up, it’s much more important that you have your books right than that you conduct your business in a good way. In universities it is much more important that the registrar’s records be in order than the library be well-stocked. After all, you know, your grades are all locked up in safes, and protected from thievery and pilfering, and they are the most valuable property that the university has; the library can go hang.
Then further more, the main functioning of a university is, as a sensible person would imagine, to teach students and to do research. So the faculty should be the most important thing in the university, on the contrary, the administration is the most important thing. The people who keep the records, who make the game rules up. So the faculty are always being obstructed by the administration and forced into irrelevant meetings, and to do everything but scholarship. Do you know what scholarship means, or what a school means? The original meaning of schola is leisure. We talk of a “scholar and a gentleman” because a gentleman was a person who had a private income and he could afford to be a scholar. He did not have to earn a living and therefore he could study the classics and poetry and things like that. Today nothing is more busy than a school. They make you work, work, work because you have to get through on schedule. There are expedited courses, and you go to school so as to get a union card, to get a Ph.D. or something you could earn on living. So, on the whole, it’s a contradiction of scholarship. Scholarship is to study everything that is unimportant, not necessary for survival, all the charming irrelevancies of life. So you see, the thing is this, if you do not have room in your life for the playful, life is not worth living. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, but if the only reason for which Jack plays is that he can work better afterwards, he is not really playing. He is playing because it is good for him, he is not playing at all. You have to be able to be a true scholars, you have to cultivate an attitude to life in which you are not trying to get anything out of it.
You pick up a pebble on the beach: look at it, beautiful, don’t try to get a sermon out of it. Sermons-in-stones and God-in-everything be damned – just enjoy it! Do not feel that you have got to salve your conscience by saying that this is for the advancement of your aesthetic understanding. Enjoy the pebble. If you do that, you become healthy. You become able to be a loving, helpful human being. But if you can’t do that, if you can only do things because they’re somehow, you are going to get something out of it, you are a vulture.
So, we have to learn, you don’t have, you know, you don’t have to do anything, but it is a great idea, it is a great thing if you can learn what the Chinese call “purposelessness.” They think nature is purposeless. When we say something is purposeless, it is a put-down. There is no future in it, it is a washout. When they hear the word purposeless they think that’s just great. It is like the waves washing against the shore, going on and on, forever, with no meaning. A great Zen master said, as his death poem, just before he died, “From the bathtub, to the bathtub, I have uttered stuff and nonsense.” The bathtub in which the baby is washed at birth, the bathtub in which the corpse is washed before burial, all this time I have said many nonsenses. Like the birds in the trees go twee, twee, twee. What is it all about? Everybody tries to say, “Ah, yes, it is a mating call – purposeful. They are trying to get their mates, you know, by attracting them with a song.” That’s why they have colors, and why butterflies have eye-like designs on them for self-protection, an engineering view of the universe. Why do we do that? We say, “Well, it is because they need to survive.” But why survive? What is that for? Well, to survive. See, human beings really are a lot of tubes, and all living creatures are just tubes. These tubes have to put things in one end and let them go out at the other. Then they get clever about it and they develop nerve ganglia on one end of the tube – the eating end called a head. And that has got eyes and ears, and it has little organs and antennae, thing like this, and that help you define things to put in one end so that you can let them out the other. Well, while you are doing this, you see, the stuff going through wears the tube out and so, the show can go on, the tubes have complicated ways of making other tubes which will go on doing the same thing, in at one end, out the other. And they say, “Well, that is terribly serious. That is awfully important. We have got to keep on doing this.”
Then when the Chinese say nature is purposeless this is a compliment. It is like the idea of the Japanese word yugen. They describe yugen as watching wild geese fly and be hidden in the clouds; as watching a ship vanish behind the distant island; as wandering on and on in a great forest with no thought of return. Haven’t you done this? Haven’t you gone on a walk with no particular purpose in mind? You carry a stick with you and you occasionally hit it at old stumps, wander along and sometimes twiddle your thumbs. It is at that moment that you are a perfectly rational human being; you have learned purposelessness. All music is purposeless. Is music getting somewhere? If it were, I mean, if the aim of music or the symphony were to get to the final bar, the best conductor would be the one who got there fastest. See, dancing, when you dance do you aim to arrive at a particular place on the floor? Is that the idea of dancing? The aim of dancing is to dance. Is the present. This is exactly the same in our life. We think life has a purpose. I remember the preachers who used to say, when I was a small boy, I’ve always heard it, we must follow the God’s purpose, his purpose for you and his purpose for me. When I asked these cats what the purpose was, they never knew! They never knew what it was, they had a hymn “God is working his purpose out as year succeeds to year. God is working his purpose out and the time is drawing near. The time on the earth should be full of the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.” What’s the glory of God? Well, they weren’t quite sure. I’ll tell you what it is. In heaven all those angels are gathered around the glory of God. That is to say the which than which there’s no whicher. Catholics call it the beatific vision, the Jews call it the shekhinah. There all are angels standing around and saying hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah. It means nothing. They’re just having a ball. See, that’s what happened in the beginning. When the God created the universe it was created like all star, all planets, all galaxies, they are vaguely spherical. He created this and said have a ball. But before he said that, he said you must draw the line somewhere. That was the real thing he said first, before ‘let there be light’ that came later. First thing was you must draw the line somewhere. Otherwise nothing would happen. You’ve got to have the good guys, the bad guys, you’ve got to have this, you’ve got to have that, the black and white, light and darkness. You must draw the line somewhere.
Now, here is the choice. Are you going to trust it or not? If you do trust it you may get let down, and this it is yourself, your own nature and all nature around you. There are going to be mistakes, but if you don’t trust it at all, you are going to strangle yourself. You are going to fence yourself around with rules and regulations and laws and prescriptions and policemen and guards – and who’s going to guard the guards. And who’s going to look after Big Brother to be sure he doesn’t do something stupid. No-go. Supposing I get annoyed with somebody in the audience and I’m going to throw this ashtray at them but I don’t want to hit my friend sitting next to that person. I want to be absolutely sure this ashtray hits that individual. And so I don’t trust myself to throw it. I have to carry it along and be sure I hit that person on a head. See, I don’t throw it because I can’t let go of it. To throw it I must let go of it. To live I must have faith. I must trust myself to the totally unknown, I must trust myself, to a nature which does not have a boss. Because a boss is a system of mistrust. That is why Lao-tzu’s Tao loves and nourishes all things, but does not lord it over them.