Posts tagged with "Taoism"

29 2/12: The Lachrymologist

I used to be a crier. Any strong emo­tion, good or bad (though more often the lat­ter), could bring on tears like a reflex. Now, I can’t remem­ber the last time I cried, which means it’s been a while. More than a year, I sus­pect.

Getting misty-eyed does­n’t count; that’s too easy. A poignant scene in a movie, the right song at the right moment, even see­ing some­one demon­strate a Tai Chi move­ment with mas­ter­ly detail and pre­ci­sion can cause my heart to swell, but the feel­ing only lasts as long as a few blinks after the blurred vision. When I refer to cry­ing, I mean when the tears are enough to over­flow and leak.

Self portrait at 29 2/12


When I was young, the kids in school would laugh at boys who cried — much less social­ly accept­able in this cul­ture — but I was nev­er embar­rassed about it. I thought it was nat­ur­al, the way some peo­ple are gay or Caucasian. I thought I’d grow out of it, the way one grows out of a fear of the dark grad­u­al­ly and sub­con­scious­ly, but I kept cry­ing well into my 20s.

I’ve always won­dered if my dad has ever cried, even as a child. I can’t pic­ture him doing it, not even when my grand­moth­er dies. He’s so care­free and log­i­cal that I can’t see any­thing affect­ing him emo­tion­al­ly. With my dad as my ear­ly mod­el for a man, I’m sure this is part of the rea­son I don’t feel like an adult yet. Society teach­es us that adults, or male one’s at least, aren’t sup­posed to cry.

I’m not sure why it’s been so long for me. Maybe the ther­a­py, com­bined with my study of Taoism, has evened out my ups and downs, help­ing me acknowl­edge my weak­ness­es (so I’m not as hard on myself), as well as the uncon­trol­lable nature of life. Maybe my life is sta­ble enough now that I did­n’t need that kind of release.

I turn 30 in 10 months, and I won­der when I’ll cry again.

The Turning 30 Series

Five Year Timestamp, Revisited

On the last entry, my Uncle Joe post­ed this com­ment:

You’ve changed a lot. More mature, more sta­ble, more tol­er­ant. 5 years back, you paid more atten­tion to your appear­ance, now you care more about what you do, what you observe. Now you’re a bit slop­py :)…and I like that. Your spend­ing habit is so much dif­fer­ent.

I don’t know what caused all that…work expe­ri­ence? Parents’ divorce? Love life? Tai Chi and Taoism?

The caus­es of my changes were too big to cov­er in the small box, so I said I’d cov­er them in their own entry. Here goes.


One of the sig­nif­i­cant things my ther­a­pist helped me with was the abil­i­ty to not sweat the small stuff. It took a few thought records for me to real­ize that there are things out of my con­trol. I used to be real­ly moody, where if a small detail did­n’t go right, I’d get real­ly grumpy. Now that does­n’t any­more, although I do occa­sion­al­ly have to remind myself of this idea, as it’s not a com­plete­ly nat­ur­al reac­tion (yet). This is prob­a­bly what Uncle Joe noticed as me being “slop­py”, as I’ve stopped wor­ry­ing about things going wrong, so a bit more care­free when it comes to details. Even Bronwen said she’s noticed the change.

I also had inti­ma­cy issues, where I’d push my girl­friends away if they got too close. I’ve since learned to let some­one in, even if it means it may hurt me in the end, and there’s a great com­fort to be had in know­ing this. In fig­ur­ing out what went wrong, and being giv­en the hope that my future rela­tion­ships won’t end due to my old inti­ma­cy issues, which I’m sure was buried in my sub­con­scious before.


Taoism has giv­en me the same rough mind­set as ther­a­py, in terms of let­ting go of the lit­tle things that don’t go my way. But it was­n’t just due to the fact that things are out of my con­trol, but also the idea that things don’t real­ly mat­ter. I’m still work­ing on oth­er tenets, like spon­tane­ity and wu wei, but what I’ve been able to under­stand and apply so far has helped a lot.

When I’m hav­ing a bad day, I can go to the Tao Te Ching, find a verse that’s appro­pri­ate to my sit­u­a­tion, and for some rea­son my heart finds such con­tent­ment in the words. Perhaps it’s even more than the indi­vid­ual tenets, and the fact that I now have some­thing to believe in that brings com­fort, sta­bil­i­ty, and hap­pi­ness. A non-reli­gious opi­ate, if you will.


Having been through two good rela­tion­ships with two good peo­ple, espe­cial­ly with the mem­o­ries I have now, has giv­en me a lot of sat­is­fac­tion. Sure, they may have end­ed, but I nev­er thought I’d be in a good rela­tion­ship, prob­a­bly because of my child­hood with my par­ents, along with con­fi­dence issues. I think some peo­ple go their whole lives with­out ever hav­ing the sort of love that I did, or being able to expe­ri­ence the same won­der­ful­ly inti­mate moments. This has giv­en me a con­tent­ment I would­n’t be able to find any­where else.

Wong Tai Sin Temple

As a Taoist, I felt it was only nat­ur­al that I vis­it the most famous Taoist tem­ple in Hong Kong while here.

Maybe I was being naïve, but I was pic­tur­ing some­thing like Washington Square Park, except instead of chess board tables, there would be peo­ple sit­ting around, dis­cussing Chuang Tzu’s para­bles, or spright­ly con­ver­sa­tions about the hap­pi­ness of fish. Instead, it was more like a gigan­tic for­tune-telling, wish­ing well extrav­a­gan­za. People go there to wor­ship Taoist deities by burn­ing incense, pray­ing to them for their wish­es to come true, and have their for­tunes told through the prac­tice of kau cim, which is when they shake a con­tain­er full of bam­boo sticks until one falls out, and the char­ac­ter on the stick is inter­pret­ed by a sooth­say­er1.

It amazes me how vast­ly dif­fer­ent the Taoist phi­los­o­phy is from the reli­gion. I could­n’t relate to any of this at all. The Taoists here are try­ing to get a hol­i­day — on Lau Tzu’s birth­day, if I under­stand cor­rect­ly — because oth­er reli­gions get a day off. This strikes me as some­what strange, since Lao Tzu is still dis­put­ed to be a myth­i­cal fig­ure, with an unknown date of birth. I also have to won­der if Lao Tzu would approve of such a rit­u­al.

At one point, there was an old lady wor­ship­ing at the entrance of a build­ing, and a woman came out and said, “Ma’am, this is the infor­ma­tion booth. You don’t need to wor­ship us.” My uncle and I could­n’t stop laugh­ing.

(This was a qui­et day in the mid­dle of the after­noon. Apparently, on spe­cial days of the Chinese lunar cal­en­dar, it’s packed, and the incense smoke too thick to breathe. Superstition has always been a part of the Chinese cul­ture.)

  1. That’s the part of the video where the peo­ple are kneel­ing, and you can hear the bam­boo shak­ers. It’s a short clip because I was­n’t allowed to film there. []

Seasonal Cycle

It’s been snow­ing for three days now, the first real snow­fall of the sea­son. It’s a won­der­ful feel­ing to look out­side and see it falling1. Winter brings it’s own sort of cozi­ness, like the way sun is for sports and rain is for movies.

A lot of peo­ple don’t like the win­ter, whether it’s because they get tired shov­el­ing, they’re late from clean­ing the car, they don’t like deal­ing with the messi­ness, or they sim­ply hate being cold. To me, it’s all part and par­cel of liv­ing in the Great White North. The sum­mer brings as many unpleas­ant issues — burn­ing car seats, sti­fling heat, unavoid­able sweat. I would­n’t be able to appre­ci­ate one if it was­n’t for the oth­er.

I tend to get tired of the weath­er only at the end of each sea­son, because they seem to drag on for so long2. It’s a nev­er-end­ing cycle of enjoy­ing the new sea­son, then miss­ing the next one.

There’s this great poem by Shioh T’ao I think of when try­ing to explain this:

Spring comes, and I look at the birds;
Summer comes, and I take a bath in the stream;
Autumn comes, and I climb to the top of the moun­tain;
Winter comes, and I make the most of the sun­light for warmth.
This is how I savor the pas­sage of the sea­sons.

My ver­sion would go some­thing like this:

Spring comes, and I admire the blos­som­ing fem­i­nine beau­ty;
Summer comes, and I go for a dri­ve;
Autumn comes, and I fall in love with every­thing;
Winter comes, and I cher­ish the warmth.
This is how I savor the pas­sage of the sea­sons.

This is why I love Canada. I would­n’t want to live any­where else.

For now, I’m enjoy­ing the snow.

  1. Admittedly, it’s been a mild win­ter so far; maybe I’ll feel dif­fer­ent­ly when I have to scrape ice off my wind­shield at ‑40°C. []
  2. There’s a say­ing that Canada has only two sea­sons — win­ter and con­struc­tion. []