Day 2:
Language Creates Distinctions

Live Like a Daoist

After completing the assigned exercise for today, click here to access the prompt for tonight’s reflection and to submit your 1-2 paragraph journal entry. If you like, in addition to or instead of your normal reflection, you can tell a short story or create a short video in which you use the words you invent for today.


“But human speech is not just a blowing of air. Speech has something of which it speaks, something it refers to.”

“Yes, but what it refers to is peculiarly unfixed….” (ZZ 2 / 13)

Courses have never had any sealed boundaries between them, and words have never had any constant range. It is by establishing definitions of what is “this,” what is “right,” that boundaries are made. (ZZ 2 / 17)

The “Equalizing Assessments of Things” chapter of Zhuangzi contains many statements about the relativity of words (or concepts) to our use of them: they refer to what they do only because we choose to use them in the ways we do. A thing or a collection of things can be categorized differently – can be divided by different “boundaries” – if we choose to do so.

Today's Exercise

Today your task is to play with categories. With one or more partners — who can be classmates, friends from outside class, or a combination — come up with two or more words that you will use to carve the world up differently. Make a distinction where your normal speech would not, or group things together in a single category/word that we would normally distinguish. Try to find times to use the words with one another over the course of the day. If possible, carry on using these new terms for the rest of this week.