being natural, global change, human being, Intelligence, natural, simplicity, Taoist, Uncategorized

Being a Taoist Today

Taoism began about 2500 years ago, with a short book, the Tao Te Ching, written by an unknown author (in Chinese Lao Tze just means “the old guy”). That was a very different world. Today we have unprecedented problems. The list is alarmingly long: climate change; serious decline of all natural life-support systems: rapid species extinction: the threat of nuclear war; gross inequalities; and overpopulation.

We therefore need unprecedented solutions. This means several things: taking our problems much more seriously; acting with urgency; addressing the deeper underlying malaise of materialism; and approach our problems at all levels.

If we were all 21st Century Taoists, we would not have any of these problems. Why? Because we would be fully human, fully who we are capable of being. And we would act naturally, in accordance the the timeless principles of Nature. Unlike a Taoist 25 centuries ago, we would also be planetary, because we would be conscious of the planet as a whole, and of the global interconnectedness of everyone and everything.

I have today decided to write a book about this, about what it means to be a 21st Century Taoist

 

 

being natural, Intelligence, natural, simplicity, Taoist, Uncategorized

FULL OF AWE

I spent my honeymoon in 1970 on the banks of Loch Awe in Scotland. At the time I wondered whether its name had any relationship to “awe”, meaning “wonder, marvel”. It was only recently, when the word “awesome” became ubiquitous, that my mind went back to original meaning of this word.

As you may know, “awesome” is now used in virtually any situation to mean “the best, the greatest”, often when the thing being described is far from the greatest, far from the best. Whereas in Scotland, we might say “that’s not bad”, Americans (and many others) would say “awesome!!!”

Indeed, “awesome” seems to the word of choice in a world of permanent hyperbole. Nothing is ordinary any more!

It may interest you to know that “awesome” and awful” used to mean the opposite of what they mean today. Awful meant “full of awe” – therefore, wonderful, marvellous. Awesome, as the word suggests, meant “some awe” – therefore, not quite so wonderful.

I have no idea when the change occurred, but I can speculate why. I believe it is mainly because we live in a world of topsy-turvy values…where footballers get paid much more than nurses, and where people become overnight celebrities because they say something rude or stupid on Twitter or YouTube.

I had this cultural decline in mind when I organised and chaired a conference in Scotland in 2000 – entitled “Thinking Allowed”. The strapline was “Bring Back Thinking – All is Forgiven”. Of course, this was partly tongue in cheek, but the serious intent was to demonstrate that the quality and range of thinking has deteriorated markedly these last few decades.

A few years later, when I was living in New Mexico, I used to watch a programme called “Thinking Allowed” on Sunday mornings. As its host, Jeffrey Mishlove, pointed out, this was a play on words. He also pointed out that it was difficult to find people who could really think, and whose language reflected this. The fact that he was able to find a few was, of course, awesome!

global change, Intelligence, simplicity, Uncategorized

HOW TO RESPOND

As a Scot living in Catalunya, with a keen interest in world affairs, I often wonder how to respond to current events. The litany is all too familiar – the madness of Trump, the sadness of Brexit, the pathologies of radical Islam and climate change, as well as the local struggle here for independence.

Although there are dark clouds on the horizon, I see quite a few silver linings. Trump will go, probably sooner than we imagine; we will, at last, stop tolerating the stupidities and abuses of Islam; people will realise that Brexit is a big mistake, and do something about it; and, hard as it is to believe, we will eventually stop destroying this planet and its climate. Of all this I am certain.

True, we will go through some unpleasant moments before all this happens, but perhaps we need to. Perhaps we need extremely loud wake-up calls before we really do come to our senses. As for my adopted home, Catalunya, I know the strength of feeling here and the quiet determination. Independence will surely come, sooner or later.

You may be wondering what all this has to do with intelligent simplicity. Two things. First, it is intelligently simple to allow crises to pass – they always do! Trump, radical Islam, Brexit and climate change will all pass. When we recognise this, it makes it easier to live our lives. We don’t have to fret all the time!

Second, it is intelligently simple to be realistic about what you, personally, can do to change things. On the world stage you can do very little. On your own stage you can do a lot. For example, if you are living an intelligent and simple life, you are already making a difference. And if you are consciously working on your own evolution, the whole world somehow benefits.

being natural, Intelligence, less is better, simplicity

THE LITTLE THINGS

Take care of the pennies, and the pounds take care of themselves. And it’s true. When you pay attention to the “little things”, the big things usually work out well. Goethe no doubt had this in mind when he said “Let everyone sweep in front of his own door, and the whole world will be clean.”

Of course, it is understandable that we think about the big things, be these personal, societal or global. We worry about the state of the world or about a particular problem, so we get involved in some movement to “change the world.” This could be politics or an NGO or some voluntary activity. Yet whoever it was who said “Be the change” knew what he or she was talking about! If you want to address climate change or indeed any other big problem, just make sure that you are not part of the problem. How you do this is up to you. Be the world in miniature that you wish to create.

None of this is to suggest that you should not get involved in politics or an NGO or some other “helping activity”. But it is to suggest that you first put your own house in order before you even think about trying to put society’s house in order. If you don’t, you are likely to end up like those people who preach “Do as I say, not as I do!”

The Japanese have taken all this to an art form. Paying attention to the little things and putting one’s own house in order are central components of their culture. To take one example – the tea ceremony (cha-no-yu). To an outsider this may seem painfully stylised. To a Japanese the intricate moves are confirmation that if you hope to do the big things well, you first have to learn top do the little things well. This is why, in a Zen or Taoist training, the pupil first has to learn to basic things well – things such as walking elegantly or sitting quietly, doing nothing. Believe it or not, it takes a lot of time to learn to basic things well. Only when the pupil has really mastered the basics is he or she ready to move on to the bigger things.

Now here’s a thought. Just set aside a day every so often when you pay attention only to the “little things.” Put the big things right out of your mind. See what a difference it makes!

CT
30 July 2018

being natural, Intelligence, less is better, natural, simplicity

FULLER AND FASTER

The world is fuller and faster. In fact, it’s more than that. The world is also noisier, busier and, by all accounts, more anxious.

The world is fuller, in the sense that there are more things in it, more things to do, and more of us. Just think of the word “shopping” and you will know what I mean. Never have we had so much choice, and never have we had so many pressures to acquire things.

The world is getting faster by the day. We can travel at speed, and we can communicate instantaneously with virtually anyone, anywhere. We have never experienced such speed and “instantness” before. We are not sure what to do with it.

The world is noisier. We say much more – on phones, email, texts, chat shows, and so many other ways. Much of this counts as noise, defined as “unwanted sound”. This is not all. Muzak is everywhere – in shops and shopping centres, and in trains and planes. To call this irritating is to be kind! And then there is the sound of traffic…and so on. We have made a very noisy world. Is this what we really want?

The world is busier – indeed people these days think being busy is a virtue! Many of us are constantly active, often doing more than one thing at a time…such as driving and texting and drinking coffee. If we are not actually doing something, we are probably planning the next activity. Sitting quietly, doing nothing has become so rare that people run courses in it under various banners, such as Zen and “mindfulness”.

And the world is more anxious, with good reason. The climate is changing dangerously. Sociopaths are in power. Inequality has reached Victorian levels. And there is no sign that we human beings have renounced war. Good cause indeed to be worried, and the anxiety is evident in many ways – retail therapy; “space-filling” activities, such as eating, drinking, sex and drugs; and the fact that we have become ludicrously risk-averse.

Need it be this way? Clearly not! One can easily envisage a world that is emptier, with more space, literally and metaphorically. It is slower, more leisurely. People are not rushing towards the end of their lives! They have time to stop and stare. It is a quieter, more peaceful world. People still talk, of course, and there is good music. But there is much less unwanted sound. It is a less busy world. People still do things, but they do fewer of them. They value the quality of what they do, rather than the quantity. And, yes, people are still anxious. That’s just part of being human. But I suspect that in an emptier, slower, quieter, less busy world, we would not have sociopaths in power, the climate would be in its natural state, gross inequality would be a thing of the past, and that we would use peaceful means to settle disputes. In short, we would be less anxious!