Being a Taoist in today’s world is not easy, partly because it is never easy to be a Taoist, but mainly because today’s world seems to be the antithesis of everything that Taoism stands for. If you are not sure what I mean, let me just say a few words about a typical Taoist, and you will see how this contrasts with the world today.
A typical Taoist is quiet, internally peaceful, very economical, and natural. By this I mean that he (or she) lives in tune with Nature, according to “Nature’s way” (which is one interpretation of the word “Tao”).
Because the Taoist is like this, he is able to use minimum effort, minimum resources, to achieve optimum results. A Taoist does not waste this planet’s resources, nor his own
It goes without saying, I hope, that, if we were all Taoists, we would not be facing the existential problems of climate change and the rapid decline of all this planet’s life-support systems. That part seems clear.
And although I have not fully thought this through, I think it is also clear that if we were all Taoists, we would not have the equally pressing problems of war, poverty, fanaticism, and the infantilisation of society.
Of course, we are not all Taoists. Indeed, many of us seem to be the opposite – noisy, internally at war with ourselves, very uneconomical, and anything but natural. Much has been said and written about why we are this way, and I have no intention of repeating all that. Much less has been said and written on what it would take to transform ourselves radically…into 21st Century Taoists. Reading a good translation of the Tao Te Ching would be a good start. I highly recommend Stephen Mitchell’s version. Beyond that, what would help most, I believe, is to slow down, stop, and become quite inside.