Is there anyone paying attention to this group anymore? I'm too tired to post anything of substance right now, but I will tomorrow... try to get this group back up and going.

Way of the way
Martha Stewart
Our community has grown covered with dust with a probable smattering of footprints scattered amongst it's records. We all tend to come and go on our various paths, that is the way of things after all.

Something I've noticed since I put the first post in here that's struck me a bit fascinating is this: Taoism appears to mean something different to a lot of people.

Not that this is a bad/good thing, rather, it is interesting to see what people write about in something that is so formless but can take on the form of everything. I can't say it's a surprise either.

So I pose a question (or two): What does Taoism mean to you? How has it changed your life?

Gettin' through the day
Breathe. Everything is as it should be.

Or is everything just as it must be? Is there a difference, and if so is that difference as frightening to you as it is to me?

I am all alone here, being the only Taoist I know... could others of you give me ideas of how you deal with extreme stress/depression?

On the Subject of Wu Wei
I wrote this for my regular LJ, and it seemed like one of those rare occasions where this one and my own overlap and I've written something for myself that's actually presentable to the general public. Heheh...

So, I decided to repost it. My apologies to my handful of pals that'll hafta see this on their Friends page twice... Feel free to ignore either or both of them. ;)

I think that any vocation, any hobby, or just any familiar activity can really change who a person is over time. If I went through a list of all of the jobs I've had or hobbies I've picked up, I could tell you exactly what sort of people you would expect to see in Such-and-Such Place doing whatever it is I was talking about...

Playing chess has been one of the more rewarding hobbies I've found in all my years, never mind that it's free entertainment once you've bought the board and read a book or two on the subject. It brings in a few distinct categories of folks, not all of which may be my favorite people to hang out with... The sport does have its share of pseudo-intellectuals, the jocks of the nerd world, who have something to prove to themselves and anyone else willing to play or watch. It's got its deep thinkers who use it as a means of refining themselves, people who almost see it as a metaphysical exercise. And sometimes you'll just be sitting across the table from someone who learned it from a father or grandfather and likes to play to pass the time or socialize--the old men at the park downtown usually fall into this category.

I can safely say that I've been all of these people at one point or another, and maybe even a few categories that I've neglected to consider here.

But one useful thing that unites all of them is a central lesson to the game: the look-before-you-leap approach that's required to survive. Even the bravest and most adventurous player still takes a long view of things; even as he crosses his fingers and leaps into the unknown, he's still considered the fact that he's leaving familiar territory and hopefully (for his sake, anyway) he has some sort of a plan or purpose behind a wild set of moves.

The game can also teach you a lot about human nature. It may be the first time you ever see a person bluff. It may be the first time you pin your own hopes for success on another person behaving a certain way, only to see them do something completely different and ruin it all. Some of your best and most complicated plans will crash and burn; some of your most optimistic assumptions about yourself will be put to the test.

The greatest thing to me, though, is the accumulated experience that comes from just a handful of games and a little experimentation. Just by interacting with another person over the chessboard, you can learn truths about human nature--reasoning, instinct, emotion--that might take years of real-life experience to scratch the surface of. It's competitive, but it's still a very social activity that forces you to interact with people under the sort of dynamic that you might rarely see off the playing field--conflict, rivalry, manipulation, deception, the stuff that tragedies are made of. Nothing like being able to learn a valuable lesson about people without too many negative consequences.

Two great tastes that taste great together--a long view on decision-making in life, and a better understanding of people. Both of them combined have had an odd effect on me, though...

Just like I've learned from hundreds of games of chess, I can look at a series of moves and reckon how they will play out. That's how wisdom happens, really--when you've failed enough times, when you've wandered down enough wrong paths, you're usually inclined to save yourself the trouble of doing it all over again. The same goes for life... The more new situations I find myself in, the more they start to look like reruns of older ones. And when I recognize the formula of one scenario that went wrong, and it's identical to the current one, it becomes easier and easier to not get caught up in things that seem destined to fail or at least to be quickly undone.

The tendency is to want to do less and less, as so many options become pointless.

... THAT won't get me far... THAT'S more trouble than it's worth... THAT does more harm than good...

Eventually it starts to look like there's very little to be done at all. All of the pieces together are at their strongest, as a whole, in their starting positions... It's almost a pity to have to move in the first place, because you have to work hard to maintain the potential that came so naturally by going nowhere and pursuing nothing.

I think this has spilled over into my day-to-day life. There's so much NOT worth doing, it almost makes it hard to find something that IS. But when I do find a task worth working on, even if it's just another mistake that I'm still waiting to learn from, it's nice to have that extra reserve of energy, that extra push that comes from not exerting myself where it's not needed.

Musashi said it best: "Do nothing which is of no use."

Not Your Ordinary Riddle
Anyone feeling brave? Foolish? All of the Above? ;)

Back when I was studying Chinese, the head of my teaching team gave us a riddle to work on in class one day... This is definitely a tricky one. And I know a lot of folks around here like grinding their own gears trying to figure out the answers to everything, so I'll toss it around as a challenge to anyone who feels up to it.

I'll warn you in advance... If the answer isn't obvious to you, it definitely won't be obvious to you. ;) Heheh... And you might be shocked when you find out why the answer is what it is.

Since there are only three answers, please provide an explanation as to why you made your particular choice. You get 5 Cool Points for guessing the correct answer, and 20 additional Cool Points by providing the proper justification for your answer. So, at the very least, your courage gives you a 1-in-3 chance of getting 5 free Cool Points just for trying.

Cool Points can be redeemed for instant enlightenment at all participating Taoist LJ communities.

One day, a man was traveling the road from Luoyang to visit relatives in Chang An. He thought he knew the way, but he found himself at an unknown crossroads and realized he was lost. There were three roads--a left, a middle, and a right path to choose from--and he had no idea which one might be correct.

But there was an old man by the side of the road, sitting on top of a large rock. So he approached the old man to ask him for directions.

"Sir, I am on my way to Chang An and seem to be lost... Could you tell me which of these is the road to Chang An?"

The old man said nothing but climbed down off of the rock and disappeared behind it. Then, he merely poked his head up over the rock, smiled at the traveler, and began walking away. At once the traveler realized which road he should take.


Which road DID he take, and why? ;)

My name is FuzzyPanda.

I came here because I have never been a follower of a specific "religion" or "philosophy", but rather, have always followed my own spiritual inclinations. I was raised in the Southern part of the USA, and as such, have always been surrounded by Christianity, and have been taught little else. Lately I have become curious about eastern philosophy and religion, and Tao is probably the one I know the least about. I want to participate in discussions and learn more about Taoism and myself.

Pocket Full of Kryptonite
So here's the deal.

The Way is just the Way... You're here, you'd like to understand the Way, maybe chill with it a little while. Y'know, maybe the two of you could go have a cup of coffee and just chat?

But it's still the Way. And you're not supposed to sit around and think about the Way, you're just supposed to go with the Way. But you don't know which way the Way is going unless you stop and think about it, except then you're not really in it because you're so wrapped up in examining it from outside of it.

But you're still trying! And you'll keep trying until you stop, which is right when you'll finally get it and stop trying, which is a sure sign that you've finally got it. And on that day I'll salute you, and in the meantime I'll do what I can to help you with your struggle to stop struggling.

Meanwhile... You just want to find the Way.

The QUESTION is: What's getting in your way?

Take a good hard look at yourself. You know what you've accomplished, and you know what you're working on. Every once in a while you might even glance over at that To-Do List full of things you haven't even touched yet.

But you also understand the Tao enough to recognize that, if you're pushing in any direction at all, there's probably something resisting you. You can jump off a diving board or wade over from the kiddie side, but if you want to go anywhere in that swimming pool of life... sooner or later you're gonna hafta push all of that water out of your way. Enlightenment is that cozy, inflatable lounge chair on some distant shore, and you're determined to sit in that Chair of Enlightenment and partake of the Umbrella-Decorated Pina Colada of Wisdom.

So what's filling your pool?

Out of all the things that may confuse you, distract you, sidetrack you, or even physically restrain you, what do you feel is the biggest impediment to your own personal quest for understanding? There are sooo many different things to choose from, and even the merits or difficulties of one type of obstruction to another are pretty relative... We could go on debating whose is the biggest and baddest but, really, all that matters for you is which one you think is the worst.

Also, if it's something very precise and you think you can expound on it, what do you see as the central meaning behind your particular problem? For example, even an anger management problem has its roots. What are you angry about? What is the central theme of that frustration that causes you to lash out.

I've got a hunch that this could be a really helpful exercise for us in recognizing and getting around the things that're causing trouble, and I've also got a hunch that this is one of those days where some of my hunches are correct. Your participation is always encouraged.

Oh, we need volunteers? OK, OK... *sigh*

For me, I don't even have to stop to think before answering this one. I know that I'm easily driven to excess... While I've gotten rid of a lot of the clutter that used to be in my life, I still manage to stall on what's left because, as I'm starting to realize, it wasn't all the clutter so much as my desire to be distracted by it. Sex is good for my prostate, videogames are good for my reflexes, and food's good for just about everything else--until I get too much of them all.

At heart, I'm still like that cheetah on the National Geographic Channel who finds a whole gazelle carcass all to himself--rather than stop at seconds and leave well enough alone, he gorges himself on the entire thing as if it's the last lucky break he'll ever have in life. I have yet to figure out what it is I'm avoiding with all of these distractions, but when I do I'd really like to finally stop avoiding it... In fact, I never posed the question to myself quite like that, so I think I just made a bit of a breakthrough. *gasps*

In the meantime... I guess I'm just gonna go get a snack and look at some porn or play on my roommate's XBox while I wait to read all of your interesting responses. C'est La Vie.

Sensing A Pattern
Y'know, that last question really struck me funny. We all appeared to be murdering indiscriminantly at our leisure, but...

... Every one of you that picked a target, picked at least one religious figure.

That's very telling. I guess it's almost OBVIOUS to anyone that's looking, that this time in human history has made a dreadful show of how religious faith can drive people to kill one another. Then again, when hasn't that been a problem? And it'd be easy to say that Muslims are hosting the party right now, but it's clear that a fair share of people are antagonizing Muslims just for being Muslims in the first place. It's also clear that plenty of other religions have blood on their hands from centuries past, sometimes mere days or months.

Come to think of it, Taoism might be the ONLY religion that's not locked in some sort of struggle right now--it's just getting along in the shadow of Communist Party atheism and surviving in the minds of expatriates and foster families such as ours. Seriously! Even the Dalai Lama is getting hassled, even though he may not have asked for it.

But clearly you've all noticed what a horrible point of contention religion can be, and you're all a little upset at how two people who claim to want to be good to one another and to the world can somehow fail to see eye-to-eye. I guess we're all in agreement that the Devil's in the details...

Somehow, things like the perceived authority of the Catholic Church and whether or not a woman should vote and just who WAS God's favorite prophet have managed to eclipse issues like what is acceptable treatment of a human being and who should get fat while others starve. I share your disappointment.

Now, my little observation on Taoism as a religious standout might just be mere trivia, but I think it brought us all here for a reason. I think one big thing that makes it appealing is that it's NOT tied up in all this mess. It's innocuous, inoffensive, on the sideline. Taoism doesn't produce armies of men with sword and shield and yin-yang banner waiting to trample the countryside. A statue of Guan Yu in some little shop in Hong Kong might still be carrying a spear, but we can be pretty certain that he hasn't wielded it in about 2000 years and that no one's taken it up in his absence. This all leads me to a somewhat sensitive question.....

What is your religious/philosophical background? How did you find Taoism, and what drew you to it?

This may not be a question that everyone wants to discuss, at least not fully, but I appreciate any answers you want to give for empirical purposes if nothing else. Whatever you'd like to share would prove very interesting in revealing just what (besides Chinese ancestry) brings a person to this place and what we have in common. And I realize that what I've already posted here is quite a long read, so I'll answer first but I'm going to include it in a reply to myself.

And in case you're bored or in an activist sort of mood (or both, if you can manage that):
The Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions

It Really IS Every Day!
Look, two days in a row! If that isn't Everyday Tao then I don't know what is. But I promise, the question today is far from ordinary.

I actually read this one on another LJ and decided to toss it out here with the Taoist set, to see how folks would react. It's totally not a Taoist question, which is why I think it's a perfect Taoist question:

If you could get away with murder, who would you kill?

Now, I know how the Tao-Te Ching feels about killing folks. In fact, I'm pretty happy to report that it's also popular with at least 10% of the general population.

For the sake of argument, however, I'd like for you to consider a couple of things. First, as cool as we may be, we all still experience things subjectively. And that means that no matter how much we may try to understand and appreciate the universe and its grand scheme, we're all still just smaller parts of the big puzzle. So, I'm opposing something or someone (or quite a few of them), and someone's probably opposed to my success and well-being too. Now I hope these daily struggles don't inspire you to kill, at least not regularly or for profit, but for the purposes of discussion I'm sure you can think of SOMEONE who's at odds with you, be it over something as grand as ideology or something as simple as living space or snack chips.

Second, destruction is still part of the whole process. Maybe you don't wanna be the divine hand of justice or anything, but sometimes people and ideas just need to go away. I'd usually advise that you step aside and let Fate deal with the dirty work, but this hypothetical question is empowering you with all the balancing force of the Tao in one vicious stroke. Just for one day, be the Will of Heaven and strike someone down. Please?

Bottom line: Please don't answer by saying that you wouldn't kill anyone because killing is wrong or you're at peace with the universe. Either option spoils the fun.

I already went ahead and nominated someone earlier, and I'm gonna stick with him: Leo Strauss.

Some of you may know the name, but for those that don't... Mr. Strauss was a political philosopher who's largely credited as one of the main inspirations behind the current neoconservative movement in the US. Paul Wolfowitz, our BELOVED former Deputy Secretary of Defense who wrote the plans for the current war in Iraq, was one of his students. But the list of his followers goes on and on.

The fun part about Strauss was that he endorsed a sort of benevolent dictatorship that would guide ours and many countries' paths to greatness. The state, which would be inherently good because it was led by people like him, would naturally look out for the good of its citizens and should therefore be given much more leeway in shaping their everyday lives and their unified goals and moral standards as a people. Strauss feared tyranny by a world state and fought it with the ultimate defense: tyranny from our own state. The sad irony is that he was actually inspired by the political leanings of our good buddies in the Nazi Party which, by genealogical standards, makes our current administration the hideous grandchild of Naziism.

Much to my dismay, Leo had the nerve to go ahead and die in 1973 before I was born. Now I know there was no stipulation in this question about a time machine, and I know there were certainly worse people in history, but I still feel his presence in current events and it seems like I JUST missed him... so I thought it necessary to choose him anyway.

I suppose I could always go mutilate the body. *shrugs*

The Tao of Trying Really Hard Not to Die Just Yet
OK, so CLEARLY I've been neglecting this little forum more than I'd like to admit... but the distance between posts is far too telling. I've gotten a little too heavy with my own journal these days and started conversing with some folks that've really satisfied my need for dialogue, and that made me space out on my old covenant with our esteemed host brandogreenman. But I'll try to get on track again.

So, I was severely knocked out by the plague a couple of weeks ago. I actually charted its course across the country using nothing more complex than my LJ Friends list and, like a storm on the horizon, I saw it coming but couldn't do much to stop it or get outta the way. But I took shelter on my extra-comfy couch until it passed, and here I am. And I talked with our aforementioned proprietor about it when it was happening, and it made me think of an interesting question:

What is the Tao of Healing? More specifically, what is YOUR Tao of Healing?

Everyone has things they do that're as unique as they are, but everyone I've ever seen pretty much has a routine of behaviors and remedies that go into effect as soon as trouble strikes. Now, there are physical troubles, and then there are mental/emotional troubles... If you could think about it, I'd ask you to try and draw parallels between the two in your life. From my perspective, at least, I can say that my approaches to both are almost identical even though the specific instruments used are not.

If we wanted to get all Chinese Medicine about it, I apply "heat" under almost all circumstances: energy, stimulation. When I feel sick, I'll intentionally avoid fever reducing medicine and go out of my way to "burn off" the illness as quickly as possible. I also enjoy spicy food almost any day of the week, but it takes on a new importance when I'm sick. Almost EVERYTHING I eat will be spiced to the point that it's almost poisonous, but that suits me just fine. Tastes good, boosts my metabolism and clears my sinuses all in one shot, and jalapenos are cheaper by the pound than Advil. ;)

Emotionally, though, I've noticed that I tend to do the same thing. When I'm feeling worried or depressed, I tend to become outgoing and adventurous overnight as if I've just come down with a terminal illness. Not just more sociable, but also more daring--going to new and far-away places, putting myself in awkward and/or dangerous situations. The intense stimulation seems to have about the same effect as the spicy food... Once I get fired up, I recover very rapidly.

All in all, the way I recover ties in perfectly to my personality overall. I'm pretty aggressive and confrontational, always eager to deal with a problem head-on, and if I start to lag behind then all I need is the right kind of fuel to get me back into the fight. Whether it's food or fun, making life feel a bit more intense for a short time gives me the strength to resist throwing in the towel. ;)

I'd be interested to find out if anyone else has another approach... Or even a remark about mine would do... Hell, I'd just be glad to see something get started here again. I always liked the vibe in here a little better than some of the pseudo-intellectual LJ coffee shops I'd stumbled into in the past. Heheh.


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