The Chinese characters Tao Te Ching mean “Nature’s way”, “human virtue”, and “book”. The book itself is a highly condensed attempt to reconcile Man and Nature. In other words, Taoism seeks to marry the best of being human with the best of being natural. Clearly, this presupposes that we know what we mean by “being human” and “being natural”.
A useful starting point is to look at all other creatures, because in their own ways they are all Taoists! They qualify on both counts. They are natural, and they are fully who they are – fully eagle, fully wolf, fully dolphin, and so on. We have much to learn from them, because few of us qualify on both counts. We are neither natural nor are we fully human. Indeed, we think it is human nature to be imperfect!
It need not be this way. We could, if we chose, be both fully human and fully natural. Man and Nature need not be in opposition to each other. More than any other philosophy and practice I know, Taoism points the way to this much-needed reconciliation. It shows that, by being more natural, we become more fully human. It does this by showing us to be like Nature, think like Nature, tune into Nature, and trust in Nature. When we learn to do this, our true humanity illuminates the world.