Principle 2 Action and Reaction – Week 2 – 2023

Principle 2. The Principle of Action and Reaction. Second Week

When you force something towards an end you produce the contrary.

Last time: Two Tales

This time: Unintended Consequences

This Week:

Last week we focused on the general structure and implications of the principle. This week we’ll investigate how this principle played out (or didn’t) in our past. Can I discover situation where I applied or violated this principle? What particular consequences resulted? How would I characterize these results? 

 Another Restating of Principle 

As in the following example, these personal takes on the principles generally only capture an aspect of the original. Still, like stories, jokes, and anecdotes they seem worth considering.

Principle of Unintended Consequences

“You can get what you wanted but end up not wanting what you got”

And Another Story

Here’s a story from a traditional collection of that great sage Aesop. In it the North Wind seems to have forgotten this principle.

Aesop Fables

The Sun and the Wind were disputing which was the stronger. Suddenly they saw a traveler coming down the road, and the Sun said: “I see a way to decide our dispute. Whichever of us can cause that traveler to take off his cloak shall be regarded as the stronger. You begin.” 

So, the Sun retired behind a cloud, and the Wind began to blow as hard as it could upon the traveler. But the harder he blew the more closely did the traveler wrap his cloak round him, till at last the Wind had to give up in despair.

 Then the Sun came out and shone in all his glory upon the traveler, who soon found it too hot to walk with his cloak on.

Kindness effects more than severity.

Further Considerations

As discussed at yesterday’s meeting this principle doesn’t say that forcing produces the opposite! If I pressure someone to do what I want it doesn’t mean that they won’t do it, or that they’ll pressure me in return, it’s not quite that simple.  

Consider these examples that Laozi gives in the Dao de Jing

Chapter 9 

Fill a cup to the brim and it’s likely to spill.

Over sharpen a blade and it only loses its edge more quickly.

The more you accumulate, the more you have to lose.

Celebrity and fame bring scandal and disgrace.

Do your work and let it go. This is the way of heaven.

Chapter 24

Standing on tiptoe you lose your balance.

Running full out you are quickly exhausted.

People see through boastfulness.

The braggart appears weak.

Like crumbs from a meal, or empty promises.

They bring no satisfaction.

Those who follow the way leave all that aside.

Coming up:

Over the next weeks we’ll look at how the principle of action and reaction might apply to our present and future situations. All of this is not just in order to deepen our understanding this particular principle, but also to begin to reflect more rigorously about our daily behaviour. 

Powerful Medicine:

Every morning (perhaps even before getting out of bed or opening your eyes), consider for a brief moment how applying this principle could change your day. Imagine the specific events and encounters you think will arise and how you want to face them. Before going to sleep briefly review the day. Try to remember (without self-praise or criticism) when you felt “in agreement with yourself” (i.e., your feelings, thoughts, and actions were all aligned in the same direction). Notice when you felt angry, violent or in disagreement with yourself. Consider the principle briefly. In a surprisingly short time you will notice positive and important results. 

There’s a money back guarantee on that!

Worth Repeating:

“Only rarely do I perceive reality in a new way, and it is then that I realize that what I normally see resembles sleep or semi-sleep.”

Silo, Inner Look 6:2


The Principles, are principles of valid action. That is an action meant to enhance the well-being of others. Such acts produce a feeling of internal unity, and in retrospect 

seem like something I want to repeat.


These notes have been posted on Facebook and sent to our email list. You will also find them along with other comments, and reflections on my website:

Existential Mysticism

Illustration by Rafael Edwards

Until later…