Posts tagged with "Taoism"

The Little Man Must Go On

Live accord­ing to the sea­sons
In the town where I was born
Things have got­ta have a rea­son
The sun don’t come before the dawn

(Thanks again, Antje.)

How did I lose anoth­er week? Another week of that snow smell and gui­tar lessons and Nordique red­heads I nev­er asked out again. Lost to the trap­pings of life. So much has hap­pened, and yet noth­ing has changed, though things will be dif­fer­ent soon enough. And while I wish I could say that I had more to say about it all, I don’t.

teas in spoons
tea served

Over some ancient moon­light white tea, Heather G asked how my belief in Taoism was going. It made me real­ize I had­n’t thought about it in a while, which is exact­ly the point. I’ve been try­ing not to try to act, and just been act­ing. Doing my best not to over-think things. Taking it one call, one con­ver­sa­tion, one day, one week at a time.

round my hometown memories are fresh

It’s good to be home.

By the end of my jour­ney, I start­ed long­ing for the com­fort of my house and slip­pers, as I imag­ined being splayed out on the couch, watch­ing a movie with a bowl of ice cream in my hands. It’s been more than a week since I’ve been back, and I’ve yet to do this. It’s hard to pull myself out of the old habit of being pro­duc­tive. Sometimes I need to be wait­ing at a ter­mi­nal in New York with a three-hour lay­over to be able to sit down and enjoy a film.1

large bud

It’s dan­ger­ous to go alone! Take this.

At the same time, I’ve nev­er been more indul­gent, my lat­est vice being those bags of York Peppermint Patties. I fig­ured out that life is too short and I should be enjoy­ing myself when I was sip­ping café allongé on a patio with Karin on a beau­ti­ful Paris day, and I could final­ly appre­ci­ate this fact when talk­ing to Dennis over our lager on an Edinburgh after­noon.

This is prob­a­bly why I don’t feel over­stim­u­lat­ed, even though I’ve been going full-tilt for the last two months. Darren came over as part of his sab­bat­i­cal, and we did the things I rarely find an excuse to do myself, like going shoe shop­ping or order­ing sushi. Last week I staked him $20 and watched him win $600 when he hit his num­ber at the roulette table, five min­utes after we stepped in the casi­no. He gave me back a per­cent­age of my win­nings, and he spent the night play­ing black­jack while I bet on the elec­tron­ic hors­es. We did­n’t end up win­ning much after that, but we both left up.

Lisa even took us danc­ing2, where I learned that the entire appeal of strobe lights is their abil­i­ty to make every­thing look like a Michael Bay movie filmed in 24p. It turns out this is also a great way to do some peo­ple-watch­ing, although you start to get depressed when you see a pair of kids from their respec­tive groups pick­ing a fight with each oth­er cause they’re drunk, then mak­ing up and play­ing grab-ass on the dance floor. Ironically, I end­ed up being the one sober enough to dri­ve home.

sushi platters

From left to right: Yummy roll (deep fried crab, avo­ca­do, salmon, white fish — served warm), spicy salmon piz­za, eel spe­cial roll, green drag­on roll (avo­ca­do on tem­pu­ra shrimp and cucum­ber), shrimp tem­pu­ra roll, and Philadelphia roll.

Last time I checked, there were over 5000 unread items in my feed read­er, and tweets from over a week ago in my Twitter time­line. It’s strange to be so dis­con­nect­ed from life as I knew it. I haven’t writ­ten any­thing in as long either, which is a very long time for me. I con­sid­ered delet­ing this blog, then tak­ing a month off instead, then decid­ed I’d write when I felt like it. The thing is, I always feel like writ­ing, but late­ly this urge has giv­en way to being pro­duc­tive in oth­er ways or hav­ing fun. It’s like I’m final­ly on the Taoist path, dis­cov­er­ing that my trip has changed me more than I first thought.

  1. I end­ed up watch­ing sev­en on my trav­els, which is prob­a­bly more than all of last year):
    • Sunshine — good as long as you can get over one real­ly big, real­ly stu­pid plot ele­ment. Which I could­n’t, so on the whole this movie sucked, even though it had some of the best direct­ing I’ve ever seen in my life.
    • Network — Unbelievably ahead of it’s time in terms of media com­men­tary
    • The Last Picture Show — a great com­ing-of-age movie direct­ed by that guy who played Dr. Melfi’s psy­chi­a­trist on the Sopranos, and Cybill Shepherd in her debut role
    • Ladder 49 — I don’t trust Pat’s taste in movies any­more
    • Kung Fu Panda — they were pret­ty good at the Chinese details
    • Scott Pilgrim vs. the World — a fun movie over­all, the best part being that it’s set in Toronto. Also, very dis­ap­point­ed at how much of a sell­out Bryan Lee O’Malley is for chang­ing the end­ing based on audi­ence reac­tions at test screen­ings
    • To Kill a Mockingbird — I want­ed to be a lawyer after see­ing this


  2. Which for me is pret­ty much just sway­ing back and forth while being mes­mer­ized by the gui­tar play­ers. []

The Process (or why a tree is not a tree)

Take a leaf off a tree. Is it still a tree? Take a sin­gle twig off a tree. Is it still a tree? Remove an entire branch from a tree. Is it still a tree? Take off half of the branch­es. Is it still a tree? Cut down the whole tree, leav­ing only the stump. Is it still a tree? Many peo­ple would say no, it is no longer a tree, though the roots may still be in the ground. Well, where did the tree go? Removing a leaf, it remains a tree, but not by remov­ing all of the branch­es and the trunk?

In the real world, there aren’t any things as we com­mon­ly think of them. A ‘thing’ as we refer to it is only a noun. A noun is mere­ly an idea, a men­tal con­struct. These ‘things’ exist only in our minds. There is no tree, there is only the idea of a tree.


I’ve been writ­ing here for almost a decade, pour­ing 10 years of my life into this blog. I recent­ly con­sid­ered clean­ing up the con­tent by delet­ing a sig­nif­i­cant chunk of my old entries; I’m not the same per­son as when I wrote them, and I don’t even like who I was back then. Not to men­tion the fact that some are rather embar­rass­ing, like read­ing your old diary in high school when the biggest prob­lem was what peo­ple thought when you wore your uni­form cause you for­got it was a Civvies Day.

The prob­lem I was faced with was decid­ing what should be delet­ed. People aren’t sta­t­ic; they’re process­es, events, evo­lu­tions, made up of cells that con­tin­u­al­ly renew them­selves on a dai­ly basis. At what defin­able point can I say these entries are no longer me? It could be argued that even posts as recent as a few months ago aren’t an accu­rate rep­re­sen­ta­tion, though there may still rem­nants of the old me in the habits of my thoughts.

Then I came across this pas­sage in The Tao by Mark Forstater, on the sub­ject of how using human lan­guage to encom­pass and describe a con­cept such as the Tao is log­i­cal­ly sus­pect: “Reality can’t be enclosed and described by words. Symbols aren’t real in the way that a tree is real, and how­ev­er much we may delude our­selves that they are, we’ll even­tu­al­ly find that the word ‘water’ won’t quench our thirst.”

I came to accept that the things I write here have nev­er been and nev­er will be a com­plete reflec­tion of who I am, so I’ve decid­ed to keep all the entries. The ones writ­ten by my old self serve as a reminder of who I was, and at the very least, they tell me where I’ve been and how far I’ve come.

Arrows with no target

I don’t view my projects the same way any­more. I used to work towards a goal, an idea of what I want­ed to achieve. But more recent­ly I stopped car­ing about the end result, prob­a­bly due to this new per­spec­tive on…every­thing.

It’s a strange jux­ta­po­si­tion of know­ing that what you’re doing is ulti­mate­ly insignif­i­cant, and find­ing enjoy­ment in doing it any­way. Like a child stack­ing a pile of blocks, only to knock them down.

The wikipedia arti­cle on wu wei explains feel­ing this bet­ter than I can:

The goal for wu wei is to get out of your own way, so to speak. This is like when you are play­ing an instru­ment and if you start think­ing about play­ing the instru­ment, then you will get in your own way and inter­fere with your own play­ing. It is aim­less action, because if there was a goal that you need to aim at and hit, then you will devel­op anx­i­ety about this goal.

Zhuangzi made a point of this, where he writes about an archer who at first did­n’t have any­thing to aim at. When there was noth­ing to aim at, the archer was hap­py and con­tent with his being. He was prac­tic­ing wu wei. But, then he set up a tar­get and “got in his own way.” He was going against the Tao and the nat­ur­al course of things by hav­ing to hit that goal.

(This also reminds me of a verse from Leonard Cohen’s True Love Leaves No Traces: “Through win­dows in the dark/The chil­dren come, the chil­dren go/Like arrows with no tar­gets/Like shack­les made of snow.)

Nowadays, I do what I feel like doing and don’t stress out about not fin­ish­ing a project, cause I know I’ll feel like work­ing on it anoth­er day. It leaves me more loose ends, but I don’t mind. Luckily, I love cre­at­ing things. Trying dif­fer­ent medi­ums. New ways of express­ing myself.

29 6/12: The Arrival

I haven’t had much to say late­ly. Suffering has always been a pre­req­ui­site for my cre­ativ­i­ty, as I only need to write when unful­filled or unhap­py, and late­ly I haven’t felt either.

The real­iza­tion that I was hap­py only came when some­one asked how I was doing; I respond­ed with my usu­al, gener­ic, “I’m doing well, thanks”, and for the first time in as long as I could remem­ber, I did­n’t feel like I was lying.

Self portrait at 29 6/12


Not that the desire to write has left me com­plete­ly. I still want to, though only because it’s an enjoy­able exer­cise in itself, not because I need to get some­thing off my chest. The world final­ly makes sense, and I won­der if it’s nec­es­sary to have this blog a place to sort out my thoughts any­more.

I’m sat­is­fied with the per­son I’ve become. I’ve stopped try­ing to change, or con­stant­ly fig­ur­ing out how to improve. I like me.

The seren­i­ty is get­ting bet­ter still, almost to the point where it’s an uncon­scious state-of-mind. Things don’t both­er me the way they used to. I can dream with­out desire, I can live with­out bias, I can give with­out expect­ing, I can think with­out wor­ry, and I can enjoy with­out guilt.

I turn 30 in half a year, and I final­ly feel like I’m where I should be.

The Turning 30 Series