Student News

Words to Live By: Making Your Own Path

Friends, Mary Ellen – May 7, 2014

“…A road is made by people walking on it; things are so because they are called so. What makes them so? Making them so makes them so. What makes them not so? Making them not so makes them not so. Things all must have that which is so; things all must have that which is acceptable. There is nothing that is not so, nothing that is not acceptable…”

– Zhuangzi (369 ~ 286 B.C.)

Zhuangzi, a Daoist philosopher who lived during the Warring States period of ancient China, urges readers to respect and enforce equality among people in the Daodejing. He claims that a path of life is only carved by one’s own experiences, and that we, individually, should establish our own identities by “making things so.” He implies the notion of an independent style of living and also respects the individual efforts of striving to “make a road by walking on it.” The reference to a road further encourages readers to throw out their fears of walking on unpaved roads, prompting them to step out of their comfort zones. Zhuangzi then goes on to acknowledging that all things deserve respect and acceptance in some way, which I think is quite contemporary thinking; even today, many people or things are not accepted for different—often biased—reasons.

As a Christian, I do not believe in Zhuangzi’s philosophy entirely; for instance, I believe that some ideals of this society are unacceptable. Surprisingly enough, however, an urging from the Bible came to my mind as I read Zhuangzi’s words: go through the narrow door, not the wide one through which majority of people go. At the end, Zhuangzi’s thought-provoking encouragements combined with the Gospel inspired me to apply them to my own life. Being an introvert since birth, I always have lacked confidence and ability to express my thoughts and opinions. Social interactions were—and are, sometimes—burdens to me and I always used to “follow the crowd” instead of trying to be myself and celebrate that originality. Fortunately, an American education, which encourages individual thinking and self-expression, opened up my mind little by little over the course of last four years. But the words of Zhuangzi reminded me that I was not alone, striving to be unique and carve my own path of life. Not only do I apply this calming reminder to my life in general, but I also apply it to my life at Deerfield. The Deerfield community is wonderful in that it attempts to support every student’s passion and path of life as much as possible. Given this amazing opportunity, I determined, after I read Zhuangzi, to be more active in the community and find ways to contribute to Deerfield with true passion. However, the sphere of influence of Zhuangzi should not be limited just to me; the Deerfield community as a whole can celebrate each other’s individuality and encourage each one of us to pioneer new paths in our lives. Yes, this will push us out of our comfort zones. But I strongly believe that at the ends of the countless roads we carved and walked on, our strivings will be worthwhile.
–Chi Kyu Lee ’16