The Tao of Programming

I was recently reminded of this classic by Geoffrey James. Here are a few of my favorites. The whole text is available online.

In the beginning was the Tao. The Tao gave birth to Space and Time. Therefore Space and Time are Yin and Yang of programming.

Programmers that do not comprehend the Tao are always running out of time and space for their programs. Programmers that comprehend the Tao always have enough time and space to accomplish their goals.

How could it be otherwise?


Thus spake the master programmer:

“After three days without programming, life becomes meaningless.”


A novice asked the master: “I have a program that sometime runs and sometimes aborts. I have followed the rules of programming, yet I am totally baffled. What is the reason for this?”

The master replied: “You are confused because you do not understand Tao. Only a fool expects rational behavior from his fellow humans. Why do you expect it from a machine that humans have constructed? Computers simulate determinism; only Tao is perfect.

“The rules of programming are transitory; only Tao is eternal. Therefore you must contemplate Tao before you receive enlightenment.”

“But how will I know when I have received enlightenment?” asked the novice.

“Your program will then run correctly,” replied the master.


A novice asked the Master: “Here is a programmer that never designs, documents or tests his programs. Yet all who know him consider him one of the best programmers in the world. Why is this?”

The Master replies: “That programmer has mastered the Tao. He has gone beyond the need for design; he does not become angry when the system crashes, but accepts the universe without concern. He has gone beyond the need for documentation; he no longer cares if anyone else sees his code. He has gone beyond the need for testing; each of his programs are perfect within themselves, serene and elegant, their purpose self-evident. Truly, he has entered the mystery of Tao.”


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