Callicot, Baird, J. Earth’s Insights: A Survey of Ecological Ethics from the Mediterranean Basin to the Australian Outback.
Imagine cooking a stew. The Western concept of order is like preparing it from a recipe. A certain Stew-universal or Form—let’s say Hungarian goulash calls for such and such ingredients, in measured proportions, cooked at a set temperature, for just so long. One draws up a grocery list and goes to the supermarket and buys the ingredients. Finally, one assembles the ingredients according to the specifications of the recipe.
The Chinese concept of order is rather like cooking a stew in the following way. One collects seasonally available vegetables and herbs and perhaps a little fresh local seafood—the catch of the day. One begins not with a recipe but with the particulars that happen to be at hand, considering not only their generic characteristics but the idiosyncrasies of each. Perhaps the carrot is a bit overgrown—tough but tasty; the bok choy, inadvertently left out of yesterday’s stir-fry, a bit wilted; the potatoes new and very crisp, and so on. One cuts, boils, and tries; one decides to add a little of this and more of that; one turns up the flame a little and then, finding it too high,
turns it down—until the blend is just right. If it is done well, the flavor of each of the components is present in its insistent particularity, but complemented—and complimented—by all the others. Each ingredient is enhanced by virtue of its relationship to the others. The whole is a harmony, not just an aggregate. (I owe this analogy to Roger T. Ames, personal communication.)