Sunday, August 5, 2018

I don't get taoism

I have been reading the Tao of Pooh lately. Well, trying to. It's very enjoyable, but it might hit too close to home and I find myself reading it in short bursts. Perhaps the problem is that "home" is the general problem with my life, that thing I seek but have never been able to truly identify, a place I have but don't find comfortable. Pooh, so the book goes, is the perfect representation of Taoism; he is carefree without necessarily meaning to be. Because of his ability to live in the moment, he is at peace. Anyone who has watched Pooh for even a few minutes understands, and maybe envies, him for his general happiness. Nothing seems to disturb him, at least not for long.

Taoism's primary definition is that it cannot be defined. You aren't supposed to figure it out. Meaning will come as part of the process; filling an empty vessel and things like that. There's a Christian teaching that is along these lines: "Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Take the trouble of the day as it comes" (Matthew 6:34).

There are some fundamental problems with seeking the kind of peace found in Taoism. For starters, the practical things in life are practical for a reason. It would be great to live the carefree life, to float like a leaf on water, knowing we have no control over the currents of the stream or the wind in the air.

A leaf has no mortgage. Or a family to help support. No obligations.

There is no college tuition to pay. Clothes don't just show up at my house.

But the basic truth is this: stop worrying. That's nearly impossible for me; I have ambition, and even though at 48 (almost) it is pretty clear I won't achieve that ambition (at least professionally), I cannot simply shed that particular mantle. It gnaws at me. I'm not a conspiracy theorist or big believer in karma; but sometimes it makes a person wonder if things aren't stacked against me for some reason. Why rip a person's dreams away from them with no explanation or discussion? Perhaps the world has simply become evil, and it infects people I once considered friends.

I am Piglet combined with Eeyore. All this time I defined myself in that way. An anxious worrier whose depression is an obstacle no employer can get around. There are no Poohs around me, though, no Christopher Robins to accept me, warts and all. Only after reading the book did I understand that I should try to be Pooh, and I recognized that, to others, maybe that's what I can be.

This is what I will meditate on as I ride my bike down long, winding Middle Tennessee roads. I will strive to not need to strive. I will plan on not having to plan. I will let life wash over me as water over a rock.

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