“While Eeyore frets….and Piglet hesitates…and Rabbit calculates…and Owl pontificates…Pooh just is“
As much as I enjoy reading biographies, memoirs, and business profiles, I was looking for something a little different this week, so I picked up Tao Te Ching by Lao Zi and The Tao of Pooh and the Te of Piglet by Benjamin Hoff. I didn’t know much of anything about Tao, other than that it was an Eastern religion/philosophy, like Confucianism. Tao is a Chinese word meaning “Way,” and Taoism is all about following “The Way” and living in harmony with nature and the world in general. Despite Mr. Hoff’s repeated protestations that Tao is most certainly not a religion, I got the feeling that it most certainly is. And, like most religions, there are good and bad things to take away from it. Things which appealed to me, and things which repulsed. Granted, this list comes mainly from Mr. Hoff’s books and likely not all Taoists adhere to his beliefs, but since his books are used in many college courses on Taoism, I figure he’s a fairly reputable source.
1. The stress on being happy and content with your life and selfless in your conduct towards others.
2. The emphasis on peace and healthy habits.
3. The awareness of the world around you and how your action/inaction affects it.
1. The idea that ambition is bad and any attempt to better your circumstances, rather than just accept what life has given you, is selfish and evil
2. The belief that the more educated you are in the academic sense, the more ignorant you really are. In Mr. Hoff’s view, the best Taoists (and therefore the best people), don’t pursue higher education (or any education at all), and don’t waste time with things like reading non-Taoist texts or leaving the comfort of the place they were born.
3. A seemingly inherent hatred of all things modern – neither microwaves, nor businessmen, nor cars, nor chain stores, nor many other modern things escape Mr. Hoff’s wrath.
4. The typical religious zeal which manifests itself by putting down any who think differently. Are you ambitious? You’re evil. Do you enjoy exercise that isn’t calming and Tao-inspired? You’re stupid, killing yourself, and contributing to the destruction of the world. Disagree with something Mr. Hoff says? Well, you’ll soon be killed when Mother Nature cleanses the earth of all but the true Taoists, who will then live a simple existence in a blissful paradise where they can communicate with animals like in the days of old.
So, you see, Taoism has its good and bad points, just like any religion. And the great part about being an atheist is that I can cherry pick out the positives (which were by no means created by the Taoists), leave behind all the dogma, and be the happier for it 🙂