Saturday, August 24, 2019

A Terrific Taoist Book

     Perhaps you'd like to get an overview of Taoism through the many stories that the tradition offers.  This book will fit that bill.  It's called The Wisdom of the Tao: Ancient Stories that Delight, Inform, and Inspire, by the prolific and talented Deng Ming-Dao.

     It features 144 brief stories or short quotations, derived from such Chinese sources as Liezi, the I Ching, Zhuangzi, folktales, and classic Taoist writings.  Here is a classic, if earthy, example:

Dongguo Zi asked Zhuangzi:  "Where is Tao found?"
"Everywhere."
"Can you be specific?"
"It's in an ant."
"Can you be more basic than that?"
"It's in the weeds."
"Can you be even more basic than that?"
"It's in a clay tile."
"Can you be still more basic than that?"
"It's in shit."
Dongguo Zi was silent.

     A delightful book.


Saturday, August 17, 2019

A Refreshing Viewpoint, Part 3

     The interview with Dorothy Roberts, whom I quoted in the last two blog posts, struck a chord with me.  It reminds me of a friend of mine.

     Whenever my friend has to fill out a medical or other personal information sheet and the question of "race" comes up, she always marks the "other" box and writes in:  "human."  We are, she says, all one human race.  Why accept the artificial social constructs?

     I like her chutzpah.

     So, be human.  Be one with your neighbor and their neighbor.  Be an active member of this world.
(image courtesy of pixabay.com)


   

Saturday, August 10, 2019

A Refreshing Viewpoint, Part 2

     Last week I was presenting excerpts from an interview with Dorothy Roberts.  Here is a continuation on her view of the biological concept of "race."
There is genetic variation in the human species.  In Africa alone we could divide people into a thousand different "races" if we wanted to, based on various genetic differences.  But there would be no point in having a thousand races.  If you divide humans into just a few groups, however, then you can build a social hierarchy around those divisions.  Besides, skin color varies within races and is consistent between some people of different races.
The biological concept of race has been refuted by evolutionary biologists and geneticists and genomicists for decades.  The scientists who led the Human Genome Project made a point of saying human genetic variation isn't divided into races.  There's no such thing as black genes or white genes.  The amount of genetic variation among people of the same so-called race is greater than the amount of genetic variation between races.  You might have genes that can be traced to a certain population somewhere on the globe, but there's no point at which you can draw a boundary line and identify one race on one side and a different race on the other.
All humans originated in African and then migrated outward in groups, each carrying a subset of the genetic variation in Africa.  No one has identified a point in human history at which these migrating groups evolved into discrete and homogeneous "races."
     In other words, we are all one, people.
 
 

Saturday, August 3, 2019

A Refreshing Viewpoint

     I was recently reading in one of my favorite magazines, The Sun, an interview of Dorothy Roberts (law, Africana-studies, and sociology professor at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia) conducted by Mark Leviton.  The interview can be found in the April, 2019 volume (yes, I am a little behind on my reading).  Here are some fascinating tidbits:
Roberts:  I'm not saying that race is a natural division of human beings that can lead to unjust hierarchies.  I'm saying that the very concept of race was invented to create and enforce such hierarchies.
Leviton:  How old is this political invention?
Roberts:  Certainly hundreds of years old.  The term "race" came into use to distinguish human groups in the sixteenth century when Europeans began to conquer other peoples and enslave them.  To justify capturing Africans and turning them into property, Europeans came to describe them as a separate kind of human being -- or even not human at all.
As soon as people invent the concept of race, they rank races into a hierarchy.  Some people think it's harmless to believe in biological differences between races as long as we don't value one over another, but the whole point of dividing humans into races is to value some more than others.  The inventors of the biological concept of race said that Africans were naturally meant to be enslaved, that it was for their own good, that they were better off being slaves!  These ideas were written into law in the united States during the slavery era.
     Food for thought, don't you think?  There's more to come.

(image courtesy of pixabay.com)

   
 
 
 

Saturday, July 27, 2019

A Terrific Quote from a Terrific Book

     From Deng Ming-Dao's terrific book on Taoism, Scholar Warrior: An Introduction to the Tao in Everyday Life:
The Tao is difficult to fathom.  That is why the sages called it xuan, "the dark mystery beyond all mysteries."  It is here with us every day, yet it is difficult to sense.  It is within us, like a bright candle smothered inside a steel lantern, but we see only darkness.  It moves constantly, yet we fail to detect its flow.  It is emptiness, but we dwell only in the world of appearances.  The Tao is truly great, beyond all descriptions, beyond all conceptions, and beyond all names.  It is a mystery, but there is no awakening to life without it.  Those who enter into the Tao become one with eternity.  Those who enter into the Tao dissolve into Tao itself.  
     Lovely, no?



Saturday, July 20, 2019

A Book to Treasure, Part 2

     As I wrote last week, I found a treasure in Deng Ming-Dao's phenomenal book on Taoism, Scholar Warrior: An Introduction to the Tao in Everyday Life.  If you want to know about Taoism in a complete and thorough way, this book is for you.

     Honestly, I didn't know how terrific the book was when I ordered it.  I was actually looking for a book on Taoist meditation practices and saw that there was a chapter on that.  And once I got to that chapter, after 284 pages, I was a tiny bit disappointed that there was only one meditation practice described.  It's a good one, and one I practice several times a week, but there was . . . only . . . one.

     [Please, Mr. Deng, would you consider writing a whole book on Taoist meditation practices?  I promise to buy a copy.]

     But alleviating my disappointment was how well he described two difficult philosophical points.  I've never seen the concepts of wu wei, or effortlessness, and emptiness and union explained so well.

     I came away feeling like I found a treasure, but also wondering how this beautiful flower of Taoism, so firmly rooted in the Chinese culture, would transplant to Western cultures.  [Another book idea, Mr. Deng!]  It's something to ponder.

   

Saturday, July 13, 2019

A Book to Treasure

     As you know, I'm quite the fan of Taoist expert, Deng Ming-Dao.  I've been slowly collecting and reading his books, and discovered one that I would consider his master-work.  It's called Scholar Warrior: An Introduction to the Tao in Everyday Life.  If you want to read about Taoism in its complexity and completeness, this book is one to treasure.  It is head and shoulders above any other book on Taoism that I've ever read.

     It starts with how Taoists view their religion as not something to be practiced once a week, but as a complete lifestyle.  It goes over dietary recommendations, stretching exercises, Qigong, and herbal formulas for health.  It then talks about Taoist philosophy, such as effortlessness or wu wei, and issues in the student/teacher relationship.  It ends with a large section in which he writes about Daoyin, which bridges exercise and meditation; meditation practices; the ultimate goal of a Taoist; and a clearly written chapter about emptiness and union with the Tao.  It is worth the price of the book for the last chapter alone.

     If you are even remotely interested in Taoism, this is the best and most complete book I've found.  Highly recommended.