The Swimmer - Nature, Nurture, and Fate

(Photo by: Mike Ko)

Confucius was touring Lüliang, where the water falls from a height of thirty fathoms and churns for forty li in rapids that no fish or water creature can swim. He saw a man dive into the water and, taking him for one whom despair had driven to suicide, he ordered his disciples to line the bank and pull the man out. But after the man had swum a few hundred paces, he emerged from the water with his hair streaming down and strolled beneath the cliffs singing. Confucius rushed to question him. “I took you for a ghost, but now I see you’re a man. May I ask if you have some special dao of staying afloat in the water?”

“No,” replied the swimmer. “I have no dao. I began with my original endowment, grew up with my nature, and let things come to completion with fate. I go under with the whirlpools and emerge where the water spouts up, following the Dao of the water and never thinking about myself. That’s how I go my way.”

Confucius said, “What do you mean by saying that you began with your original endowment, grew up with your nature, and let things come to completion with fate?”

“I was born on the dry land and felt comfort on the dry land – that was my original endowment. I grew up with the water and felt comfort in the water – that became my nature. I’m not aware what I do but I do it – that’s fate.”