Inner Space
Hi, I’m Diana Demco and this is the Inner Space newsletter about my reflections on living an examined life. If you're new, you can find old editions here. You're getting this email because you signed up on my website. If you'd like to unsubscribe, click here.
There's an imbalance in today's modern world in how we relate to strength and softness.

When we hear success stories of people who persevered against all odds, or got over difficult challenges, or accomplished impressive feats, we're usually presented with ideas of hard work, determination and grit. The glorified "grind."

I don't contest the validity of those people's experiences and I'm sure to some extent, those qualities played a role in their success. But it's a skewed vision of how the world works (or can work), and it can lead us to believe that constant striving is always the answer.

One of the lies we've been sold is that softness equals weakness. If you're soft, the logic goes, then you're easily manipulated, pushed around and spineless.

People, especially men, are encouraged to be tough like a rock. Strength is seen as a core pillar of masculinity. Softness is only invited or appreciated if it complements a classically feminine person.

But this quality transcends gender ideas. Strength is praised in business encounters, in politics, and of course, in our bodies. It's the dominant paradigm we live in.

However, there's another way in which we can view weakness, or more precisely, softness. And for that we need to turn to the teachings of Taoism. (Needless to say, you don't need to subscribe to Taoism to benefit from its timeless wisdom.)

Taoism emphasized the importance of softness. It even is found among the 9 virtues of Taoism, alongside wu wei (previously featured in a newsletter issue.) Wu wei (meaning non-doing) entailed being so in touch with yourself and "the universe" (as cheesy as it sounds), that you simply allow your actions to emerge spontaneously. If you're in a locked-up, rigid state, this can't happen. Softness and wu wei are definitely co-affording each other, in the Taoist worldview.

Someone who embodies softness is malleable and can withstand the pressures from the outside world, because she doesn't put her energy into fighting back.

In the Tao Te Ching, the wise Masters are described as follows:

Fluid as melting ice.
Shapable as a block of wood.
Receptive as a valley.
Clear as a glass of water.

Suppleness and fluidity are presented as the proper qualities of a wise person. Instead of focusing on resisting our circumstances and trying to bring about change by force alone, we would be wiser if we consider how to apply the subtle art of softness to get what we want.

What you resist, persists. - C. Jung

When you fight back the forces that come your way, either from your family, workplace or society at large, your very action of resistance is also their fuel. It's how they keep thriving. Like putting gasoline on a fire, by opposing the acts and ideas you disagree with, you're creating the conditions for their flourishing.

Imagine a tennis ball thrown at a brick wall. What does it do? It bounces right back with a force equal to the one that propelled it. What if we switched the wall to one made of foam, or a kind of sponge? The tennis ball will likely have its momentum curbed. The softness of the foam received the ball, but didn't sustain its energy. It let it die out.

It's no coincidence that the ancient Masters were compared to water. The perfect metaphor for softness is to imagine being like water.

There's a popular video of Bruce Lee describing the unique properties of water (and also encouraging you to be like it.) Water's nature embodies the philosophy of softness completely. It has no shape, but takes the format of its container. If you pour it, it flows. If you obstruct its way, it finds another. It changes shape and form based on external conditions, yielding to the elements.

The desired outcome can also be brought about by allowing, rather than resisting, adapting, rather than opposing. Strength isn't the only way.

The rigid and still will be broken.
The soft and yielding will overcome.

Timeless Content

100 Simple Truths
Tarf | 6 minute read
This is a rapid-fire list of 100 piercing truths, mostly pertaining to how to spend your time wisely, nourish your mind and keep growing. You'll likely not find any groundbreaking ideas in this list, rather many reminders of what you already know. And I think there's tremendous value in encountering old information, as a way of crystalizing it in our mind even more.

Here are two of my favorites ideas from the list: "Luck favors those in motion." and "Food fuels your brain, information fuels your mind. You are what you consume."

Tool for Thought

Quiz by Knack | 5 minutes
How black and white is your thinking?

In this quiz, you'll be assessed on 4 metrics (empathy, open-mindedness, flexibility and intellectual curiosity), so you can find out how your thinking is influenced by different features of your mind.

As a bonus, this quiz is pure eye-candy. You start the test with a white sphere which changes color and shape based on your answers. It's a clever way to help you visualize your thinking.

Picture of the Week

Japanese-inspired art 🌊

Quote I'm reflecting on

Victor Frankl on the meaning of life:

It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.

Question for you to ponder

Where can you allow a bit more softness in your life?
Thank you for reading.

Until next time,
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