MARCH 18, 2020
CODEC: 13.1000.999


I haven't felt like writing lately. Plenty of free time, very little free mind.

I have been chewing over a quote from Alan Watt's book on the Tao, and I think I have some words to write (just a few) about that.

In the book, Alan Watts writes about how in Chinese culture there is the concept of polarity, which differs from a more western concept of opposition which so often leads to conflict. In polarity there is one side and there is another side, and there is a balance between those two sides. Watts says that people who have been brought up in "the aura of Christian and Hebrew aspirations" find it frustrating to comprehend that polarity. There is no progress in polarity, a western mind might think. There is no timeline from beginning to end!

We are accustomed to thinking about things with timelines and with progress.

A beginning and middle and end to every story.

A goal for every aspiration.

Yet it's more complex than that, isn't it.

He continues:

"We have been interfering with a complex system of relationships which we do not understand, and the more we study its details, the more it eludes us by revealing still more details to study. As we try to comprehend and control the world it runs away from us. Instead of chafing at this situation, a Taoist would ask what it means. What is that which always retreats when pursued? Answer: yourself."

I think, of course, of the pandemic sweeping the globe as an example of something that feels more complex than our minds can handle. Something that is without a nice little conclusion coming on the horizon which puts a bow on the whole thing.

Yet I also think of my own life, of my achievement-oriented desire to bullishly force my will onto the world, to create things and go places and meet people and make things happen.

Watts has more to say on that:

"Idealists (in the moral sense of the word) regard the universe as different and separate from themselves—that is, as a system of external objects which needs to be subjugated. Taoists view the universe as the same as, or inseparable from, themselves—so that Lao-tzu could say, 'Without leaving my house, I know the whole universe.' This implies that the art of life is more like navigation than warfare, for what is important is to understand the winds, the tides, the currents, the seasons, and the principles of growth and decay, so that one’s actions may use them and not fight them.

Well, Lao-tzu, I can no longer leave my house.

Sitting here in my home I realize how much I have been fighting the currents of the world to build something for myself. It is exhausting, and strangely, a little boring.

In this global season of not leaving, I would like to know the whole universe.

Not the little, inconsequential universe that I catch myself creating instead.