From The Way of Chuang-Tzu, translated/assembled by Thomas Merton.
The non-action of the wise man is not inaction.
It is not studied. It is not shaken by anything.
The safe is quiet because he is not moved,
Not because he wills to be quiet.
Still water is like glass.
You can look in it and see the bristles on your chin.
It is a perfect level;
A carpenter could use it.
If water is so clear, so level,
How much more the spirit of man?
The heart of the wise man is tranquil.
It is the mirror of heaven and earth
The glass of everything.
Emptiness, stillness, tranquillity, tastelessness,
Silence, non-action: this is the level of heaven and earth.
This is perfect Tao. Wise men find here.
Their resting place.
Resting, they are empty.
From emptiness comes the unconditioned.
From this, the conditioned, the individual things.
So from the sage’s emptiness, stillness arises:
From stillness, action. From action, attainment.
From their stillness comes their non-action, which is also action
And is, therefore, their attainment.
For stillness is joy. Joy is free from care
Fruitful in long years.
Joy does all things without concern;
For emptiness, stillness, tranquillity, tastelessness,
Silence and non-action
Are the root of all things.
Or, as another sage said, “You’ve got to know when to hold, know when to fold, know when to walk away, know when to run.”
I once wrote a recommendation to a client of mine, in the executive summary saying, “It is much easier to not do anything than to do something stupid.” That was in reference to their plan to embark on a complicated project that was probably going to fail – a very large WiFi deployment when the technology was still new and expensive; back in the WEP days. As it happened, they invested a huge amount of money in Cisco WiFi gear, which had to be replaced in bulk when the standards switched after WEP failed so spectacularly. My original recommendation was to wait 5 years while doing a limited, experimental, deployment on the basis that in 5 years the technology would be much better and cost half as much. I bumped into my point of contact from the client at an event in Dallas years after, and he said my report was the most unusual thing they had ever seen. I’m still proud of that, I think.