The tao that can be told isn't the real tao The name that is given is not the real name The unnamable persists names are for things Free from the names, you feel the ethereal Captured in the names, you see processes Still, the ethereal and the process spring from the same nothing Understanding is null
Hey Lao Tzu! Where do I start my software development?
Lao Tzu makes it clear here that when you start, you start from nothing. From that nothing, two things arise – the unnamable, persistent, ethereal path taken by ideas to solutions, and the named manifestations of things and processes.
Every. Software. Project. has both of these things.
Even if you can’t see it, every software project has a path for how ideas turn into solutions. This path exists beyond (and even separate from) any specific, named processes or tools. It’s the reality of what really happens during the creation process. The named artifacts, processes and tools are ‘named things’ – manifestations or interpretations of the creation process, not the creation process itself.
It’s important to seek the real path, because it’s not obvious. It’s not name-able, it’s not documented. The path you see is not the real path, the path you feel free of the processes and labels is the ethereal.
This path is the Tao; often referred to simply as “The Way.” Seeking to understand the tao will enable you and your creations to follow the tao instead of fight it, as we’ll discuss in other chapters.
This covers all the things we give names, objects, variables, processes, developers themselves, all of it. But in this chapter Lao Tzu directs us at process specifically, and I feel that’s a way to help differentiate the ethereal flow that carries software out the door from the manifestations we attempt to build.
Lao Tzu is pointing out that whatever process you have for delivering software, be it:
- A clusterfuck of an undocumented and manual build and deployment process; or
- A highly integrated continuous integration and continuous deployment path; or
- butterflies; or
- something not listed;
your process is fundamentally different from the real, ethereal, flow. It’s important to know and understand both.
How do we understand both?
Understanding is null
He also tells us that Understanding – the big understanding, the really knowing what’s going on – means understanding the root of both the tao and the named manifestations. Both of those spring from the empty string. It all starts there, at nothing, and it all returns there, such that it may be created again. If you haven’t dug down to null, you don’t have the whole picture.