Everyone does something to relax. Some play video games, some watch TV or read magazines.
I spin. And if you like, you can join me here for a window into my Spinning Zen.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What's with the title, anyway?

Today, I sit at home pondering the world and the many facets of karma, cosmic justice, happiness, and fate. And of course by that I mean lying in bed with an awful case of self-induced food poisoning. Lesson learned: never "improvise" when cooking meat using a new method.

So, since I'm currently unable to accomplish any homework (which this time requires research and handwriting), I'll dictate to my faithful computer the basis of my philosophies, then have some fun formatting. Or maybe just talk a little about what Taoism is. Or bemoan my current state of gastric affairs just entertain the both of us for a little while!

Anyway! Taoism. It's sometimes categorized as a religion, sometimes as a philosophy. I prefer to think of it as both, because while there are no god(s) and there is a particular flavor of thinking, Taoism also provides a model of life meant to bring happiness and well-being, which is really the stated goal at the core of most religions. Sure, the fathers of Taoism were a little quirky, but at least they skipped over all that business of bloodshed, testing their followers and blighting the earth when it was misbehaving. Taoists lack any built-in reason for religious conflict - there are no gods to agree with and back up man's causes, so ultimately we have to take responsibility for our own actions. Following the Tao is like following the Golden Rule - treat others the way you would like to be treated. Yeah, it's also kind of like the tree-hugging hippie preaching peace and love on the street-corner of Religion and Pessimism.

"Taoism is neither formal religion or structured philosophy." -Tao, Sacred Texts

Don't imagine I'm trying to sell you all on Taoism! It's not for everyone. Lots of people find it comforting to believe there's someone else controlling their lives. Sorry, Someone(s). Plus, the news reports would get way less interesting.

In all seriousness though, other religions are cool too. I'm not a religion-hater. The Egyptians gave us the pyramids and mummies for action/horror films; the Greeks gave us the words "narcissism" and "hubris," as well as Homer's "The Odyssey," and even Christianity inspires gifts and candy on holidays like Christmas, Easter and Halloween. Religions are supposed to make their followers happy; if they do that, they're fine by me. If they add in freebies for me too, all the better!

Let me tell you a story. Way back in grade school, I still went to Sunday school. Yes, my parents are Catholics, and happy about it. I don't understand it, but it's fine by me - they're pretty cool (I'm out of the teen years, so I can say that now). My particular Sunday school was... kind of intense, most of the time. More likely to focus on the blood and guilt aspects of the religion than the "love your fellow man" parts. I passed out once during their description of the stations of the cross, and I'm not usually squeamish; I've dissected living fish in a bio lab. When things didn't make sense to me, I asked questions... which made me a teacher's favorite! Not. ("But... why did god punish Lot? I thought he was a good guy! I get that the devil is bad, but god's supposed to be the smart one!" ...Looking back, I should really be thankful corporal punishment fell out of favor.) Sometimes they showed Veggie Tales instead of teaching, and sometimes there were donuts, so there were upsides! But this is where my view of Christianity as morbid started.

As it happens, my History class for the year was tasked with addressing the prickly topic of cultures - and by extension religions - around the world. I wasn't looking forward to it. As far as I was concerned, religion sucked; it was bloody and made people fight. But, as the year got started, then progressed, it wasn't so bad. Religions did some awesome things too. Like helping sway opinion in favor of emancipation during the civil war here in the US of A, and providing some of Gandhi's inspiration in his leadership of India's peaceful revolution (now there's an awesome guy. And a Hindu!). But I remember the religions of Asia most clearly - Confucianism, with its strict order and focus on proper relationships; the cynicism and underlying hope of Buddhism, and then, there was the Tao.

To learn about Taoism, we read "The Tao of Pooh." Great, a cartoon book, right? Wrong. A study of Taoist principles using Pooh - a happy, "go with the flow" kind of guy - as sometime co-narrator, sometime example. Think about it: who is the happiest character of the bunch? Well, that's easy - Pooh. But why? He gets into just as much trouble. He lives in the same place, has the same kinds of friends, leads the same kind of life. The answer is actually on the cover of the book, although you'd have to read it to understand:

"While Eeyore frets ... 
... and Piglet hesitates
... and Rabbit calculates 
... and Owl pontificates
...Pooh just is."

"No way," I'm thinking. "A religion that actually says all it takes to be happy is to be? No rules, no threats? Just live life simply, and try not to worry too much?" Yes way. A religion that is well known, popular quotes like "don't sweat the small stuff," "hang in there," and "take one step at a time." An honest-to-goodness, common sense religion. Wow.

I finished the book, wrote my paper, and went home and told my parents I was a Taoist. I think my mom had a "we're bad Christian parents" complex for a while, but she's all better now. I think the fact that I don't dance naked in moonlight and sacrifice small animals has a lot to do with that.

And that's it! My own personal revelation, the secret of my sanity in the face of illness and pain, and along with my discovery of spinning, the inspiration for this blog. There will be more fiber soon, I promise - three FO's, a bunch of yarn and more of one species of fiber than I know what to do with!

"Simplicity before understanding is simplistic; 
simplicity after understanding is simple." -Edward de Bono

A word on karma: While not a tenet of Taoism, the idea of karma is in keeping with Taoist teachings and philosophies. I find it to be true enough for myself and my life, and appreciate the idea that a current downswing will be followed by an equal upswing. I'm not a perfect Taoist, and can't interpret everything as positive, so the idea of karma is both comfortable and useful to me.

Disclaimer: I intend no offense to any religion, culture, race of people or nation. If asked, I can provide examples of stupid things I, or other Taoists, have done too.

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