Where I Belong

Those who rule in accor­dance with Tao do not use force against the world
For that which is forced is likely to return

—Verse 30, Tao Te Ching

I may know bet­ter, I may under­stand what I’m sup­posed to accept, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

Sometimes the world is crash­ing down around you, and all you can do is watch.

Because you can’t yell at the sky to keep it from falling.

Mittens Make It Up

Thumbnail: Club Monaco mittens

The win­ter storm watch con­tin­ued at –14°C today. When you’re inside, the sun fools you with the warmth of its colour, until you step out­side and feel the bite of the wind.

I spent an hour-and-a-half look­ing for var­i­ous things and run­ning errands down­town. The streets were packed, the stores were packed, and I found nothing.

So I spent a stu­pid amount of money on these awe­some mit­tens at Club Monaco. I actu­ally walked out of the store and out of the mall when I found them, for fear that I would pur­chase them, but alas, here they are on my hands. I had to decide between the white and black stripes, the grey and black stripes, and the flat grey ones, but since most of my cloth­ing is neu­tral, I decided on the flashiest pair. The open hole for the fin­gers makes iPod and cam­era manip­u­la­tion easy. They’re 100% cash­mere; thin enough to wear indoors or inside your coat pocket.

Thumbnail: Club Monaco mittens, RW&Co toque

So it wasn’t a total waste of a day.

Fighting Oneself, Revisited

This is one of the strangest times of my life. I remem­ber feel­ing some­thing sim­i­lar to this over four years ago, but I haven’t had it since.

I’m fight­ing my old self again. Fighting against these feel­ings and past habits.

I wish I could define and explain it. Vincent Gallo has a song he titled “Glad To Be Unhappy”, filled his dis­tinctly min­i­mal­is­tic piano and acoustic gui­tar sounds, so sparse you don’t know where the down­beat falls. But there are no lyrics, and I think I’m start­ing to under­stand why.

Everything is so sim­ple when you’re set in your heart. But when you’re filled with such para­dox­i­cal, con­tra­dic­tory feel­ings, noth­ing makes any sense. The world is turned upside down.

It’s frus­trat­ing1 and beau­ti­ful all at once.

I think a part of me wants to think about it. I want to keep this feel­ing, where every song sounds as good as the first time you heard it, and the leaden sky is urg­ing you for­ward with every step you take. To be so inspired.

And while part of me knows that to fight against ones inner nature is fool­ish2, another part of me knows how destruc­tive it can be.

  1. The orig­i­nal title of that post was actu­ally just a 5x5 pixel square, meant to con­fuse the reader into not know­ing what to think. Trolley tried to cor­rect me once and told me the title was bro­ken, and I had to let him know it was done on pur­pose. With my new head­line images plu­gin, the graphic title doesn’t quite work so I had to change it. []
  2. To add another level to this, I’m fight­ing against fight­ing myself []

Differing Perceptions

Julie's drawing of me

Julie drew this pic­ture of me. The details betray her perspicacity.

Such as the way my shirt tails dan­gle insou­ciantly from the sweater. How the pant bot­toms are slightly bunched up. And while I don’t wear a tie that often, the preppy top + skater bot­toms style is accu­rate. Even the length of chain and the shape of my glasses. All the lit­tle details I think about when I dress myself. The only thing that isn’t me is the hair, which falls flat in the win­ter, due to the fact that it’s toque wear­ing season.

Also, I have no eyes, nose or mouth is this pic­ture. Only my wide-arm glasses, which I’ve said before is a large part of my iden­tity. Obviously, her exclu­sion of my facial fea­tures has put even more empha­sis on this.

I won­der: why are my arms drawn behind my back? Posture says a lot about a per­son. Maybe this was done with­out any con­sid­er­a­tion, but maybe there was sub­con­scious intent.

It’s always inter­est­ing to find out how other peo­ple see you. A self-image is often biased.

So which image is more accu­rate; yours or theirs?

Becoming Pat

At the core of our beings, Pat and I are the same person.

What sep­a­rates us is our emo­tion, or lack thereof. Pat’s the log­i­cal one, I’m the emo­tional one. I’ve always looked up to him — his strength, his morals, his per­son­al­ity — with­out really under­stand­ing why.

It’s only in the last year that I’ve come to real­ize Pat is a Taoist. This comes with the real­iza­tion that I’m a Taoist myself, and explains why I try to be more like him.

The inter­est­ing part is that he doesn’t even know that he’s a Taoist — sort of like Winnie the Pooh — which is exactly what makes him a true Taoist.

One of Chuang Tzŭ’s para­bles illus­trates this point. In an abbre­vi­ated ver­sion, Knowledge seeks a con­scious reflec­tion to know the Tao, and asked Silent Do Nothing and Reckless Blurter, before ask­ing The Yellow Emperor (ahhh, the Romantic per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of Chinese fables):

Knowledge said to The Yellow Emperor, “I asked Silent Do Nothing and he kept quiet. Not only didn’t he answer me, but he didn’t even know how to answer. I asked Reckless Blurter, and though he wanted to tell me, he didn’t, and even for­got my ques­tions. Now I’ve asked you, and you know all about it. Why do you say that you’re far from it?”.

The Yellow Emperor said, “Silent Do Nothing was truly right, because he didn’t know any­thing. Reckless Blurter was nearly right, because he’d for­got­ten it. You and I are far from right, because we know far too much”.

The same is true for Tai Chi1, or any mar­tial art for that mat­ter. Dissect it too much, and you lose the mean­ing. Think about it too much, and you don’t react. As Michael Babin wrote in his arti­cle on self-defense train­ing:

It is sad but true that real skill comes from seem­ingly end­less drilling of the basics and then learn­ing how to transcend/forget most of what you have so patiently learned.

In other words, learn­ing struc­ture is essen­tial to learn­ing to react to a com­plete lack of struc­ture (i.e. a real fight); but if you focus on struc­ture for too long it becomes counter-productive to “being with­out struc­ture” in mar­tial terms. One of the many annoy­ing para­doxes in the inter­nal arts.

One of the many para­doxes in the Taoist phi­los­o­phy as well. As much as I try to study it, learn it, and apply it, I find myself think­ing about it too much. As a result, I occa­sion­ally stray from being cen­tered, and lose my balance.

It’s the con­scious reflec­tion which Knowledge is seek­ing that pre­emp­tively dooms his search. This is my prob­lem as well. I buy Taoist books with a thirst for knowl­edge, but they’re all telling me the same thing now. Not that the books haven’t helped at all, but I feel like I’ve reached a limit. Perhaps even the sim­ple act of writ­ing about this is counter-productive.

I have the under­stand­ing, but I can’t apply it with­out think­ing about it first, and it’s the attempt to apply it that ruins the point. I’ve yet to reach a stage of pure reac­tion and spon­tane­ity, like Pat.

But I’m get­ting there.

  1. Yet another exam­ple of how Tai Chi is the phys­i­cal expres­sion of the phi­los­o­phy. Or per­haps this could be reverse-generalized, and said that the Taoist phi­los­o­phy is reflected in every­thing, such as mar­tial arts. []