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-table

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.

—Anonymous

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