Taoism – developing a philosophy of life (or not)

I believe that developing a strong philosophy of life is important. It gives one a big-picture view of life and strong sense of self. I love the Taoist philosophy. In its original form there are no churches, no dogma, no scriptures; just a poetic reverence for nature. Tao literally means “Way” or “Path”. In essence it says that one should embrace the flow of change in one’s life, living in harmony with the world (but if you don’t then that is still the Tao). A central concept in Taoism is Wu Wei which translates as “without action” or “effortless doing”. It is through this paradox, this effortless doing that we are in essence the “Way”.

Taoism began around 300/200BC in China and organized itself into a religion over the proceeding centuries. Putting aside all the religious mumbo jumbo, importantly for me in the Taoist philosophy, there are few if any opinions and little judgment. For what is an expensive robe? There is no such thing. The most influential Taoist text is the Toa Te Ching by Lao Tzu. The opening verse is: “The Way that can be described is not the true Way. The Name that can be named is not the constant Name.” So the Tao cannot be categorized or defined, much like the essence of nature or our feelings about something. In fact once defined the true essence is lost.

The eternal Tao, the grace of God, shows us that nature is forever changing yet remains the same, just like people. A wonderful image of the Tao is a babbling brook. Constantly in motion, moving around objects, touching them and yielding to them; forming eddies and fractal currents. After rain, swelling to a torrent and then subsiding again. Like water the Tao takes the lowest place – it forms into its container.

For me the Tao is saying that the duality of our existence is our own creation. Once judgment is put aside then this duality melts away and you are left with the Tao. I find it such a compelling philosophy because there is no unchanging truth to the world. It’s a mystery – the more you know the less you understand. So I come back to my first sentence- “I believe that developing a strong philosophy of life is important”. Well, I’m not sure just now. I think I will walk to my favorite tree and say hello to my friend the Yellow Robin and ask her. “Perhaps” she answered.

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