Trying Not to Try

Trying Not to Try

The Art and Science of Spontaneity

Book - 2014
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Random House, Inc.
A deeply original exploration of the power of spontaneity—an ancient Chinese ideal that cognitive scientists are only now beginning to understand—and why it is so essential to our well-being

Why is it always hard to fall asleep the night before an important meeting? Or be charming and relaxed on a first date? What is it about a politician who seems wooden or a comedian whose jokes fall flat or an athlete who chokes? In all of these cases, striving seems to backfire.

In Trying Not To Try, Edward Slingerland explains why we find spontaneity so elusive, and shows how early Chinese thought points the way to happier, more authentic lives. We’ve long been told that the way to achieve our goals is through careful reasoning and conscious effort. But recent research suggests that many aspects of a satisfying life, like happiness and spontaneity, are best pursued indirectly. The early Chinese philosophers knew this, and they wrote extensively about an effortless way of being in the world, which they called wu-wei (ooo-way). They believed it was the source of all success in life, and they developed various strategies for getting it and hanging on to it.

With clarity and wit, Slingerland introduces us to these thinkers and the marvelous characters in their texts, from the butcher whose blade glides effortlessly through an ox to the wood carver who sees his sculpture simply emerge from a solid block. Slingerland uncovers a direct line from wu-wei to the Force in Star Wars, explains why wu-wei is more powerful than flow, and tells us what it all means for getting a date. He also shows how new research reveals what’s happening in the brain when we’re in a state of wu-wei—why it makes us happy and effective and trustworthy, and how it might have even made civilization possible.

Through stories of mythical creatures and drunken cart riders, jazz musicians and Japanese motorcycle gangs, Slingerland effortlessly blends Eastern thought and cutting-edge science to show us how we can live more fulfilling lives. Trying Not To Try is mind-expanding and deeply pleasurable, the perfect antidote to our striving modern culture.

Baker & Taylor
Explores "why we find spontaneity so elusive and shows how early Chinese philosophy points the way to happier, more authentic lives"--Dust jacket flap.

& Taylor

Exploring the power of spontaneity, an ancient Chinese virtue that cognitive scientists are only now beginning to understand, this fascinating book, based on new research in psychology and neuroscience, reveals why it is essential to our well-being, both as individuals and as a society. 40,000 first printing.
Exploring the power of spontaneity, an ancient Chinese virtue, this book, based on new research in psychology and neuroscience, reveals why it is essential to individual and societal well-being.

Publisher: Random House Inc 2014
New York :, Crown Publishers,, 2014
Edition: First Edition
Description: vi, 295 pages ; 25 cm
ISBN: 9780770437619
Branch Call Number: 181.11 Sli


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Jun 10, 2019

wu-wei is not only a chinese philosophical concept: it was also the name of a philosopher who had the gift to simplify the quest: 'the one you are looking for is the one who is looking for you.' i want you to take that metaphysically.

Oct 11, 2018

It's an interesting take on wuwei, although my interpretation of wuwei is totally differently from his. But the notion of wuwei is so nebulous that Slingerland's interpretation is as good as other scholars'. I'm just not convinced that he needed to invoke Chinese philosophies to advocate for a more spontaneous life. However, he gives an interesting introduction to ancient Chinese philosophies and if anyone is interested in these, they should go to read the original writings and interpret these writings themselves. That's how philosophy works.

Mar 11, 2016

If you ever wondered why it's so hard to excel in life, it may be because you are under-appreciating "going with the flow". Fun and deep at the same time - who knew ancient Chinese thought was so interesting. For followers of rationality and decision theory, Slingerland reaches a very surprising and intriguing conclusion in the latter part of the book. Highly recommended.

Jun 21, 2015

A Knowledgeable and Concise philosophical book. Truly opens the eye to Eastern Philosophy and the roots of our primal intuitions. I definitely recommend this book.

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