Archives for posts with tag: Taoism

Just finished reading Illuminatus! for the second time. I realized that this is one of the few books which have genuinely changed my life. I had no idea how MUCH of an influence it had had until this reread after probably eighteen years, coming across phrases and ways of thinking which had operated as “mind bombs” (I have no idea from whom I stole that phrase). One of RAW’s favorite phrases is Korzybski’s (sp?) “the map is not the territory”, and I became aware that I had been focusing far too much on the “map” of my peregrinations, not really seeing the “territory” I had covered. My personal path has been winding, from Southern Baptist (which I left behind long ago), through a very brief not even quarter-hearted flirtation with Catholicism inspired by Thomas Merton, to varieties of Buddhism (Zen and Tibetan primarily), and back again to Taoism a couple of, or a few, times. There were also diversions into paganism and Celtic spirituality along the way, as well as the Sufis. The Sufis creeped me out a bit, but I’m not sure why. What happened is that I sent off for some information to one of the organizations affiliated with Idries Shah in the late 90s. At the time, I was living in Nevada. I subsequently moved from there to Florida, a couple of different addresses, and the Sufimail followed me for a number of years (it has since stopped). My conspiratorial mystical mind went to work and got a little freaked that they KNEW where I was somehow. The more plausible explanation is that they received change of address notifications from the PO and updated their information. Still, though, I’m not completely sure.
(the journey is its own point).Taoism is the one which resonates most strongly with me, but after reading Illuminatus! again I realized that if I am anything, and I’m not really, I’m a Discordian. I have acquired my own, personal web of knowledge about different ways to look at the world (thirteen ways of looking at a blackbird, as Wallace Stevens might say). I am more comfortable today with the fact that my journey will likely continue as it has, that I will continue learning and hopefully growing. One of my favorite quotes is from one of those Zen guys, Shunryu Suzuki. “The beginner’s mind is open to endless possibilities; the expert’s mind is open to few.” Probably slightly misquoted, but you get the idea. My goal is really simple – to always have beginner’s mind, a flexibility that allows me to encounter new points of view, assimilate what resonates to me, and move on after a time.                                                                                                                                

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God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Vonnegut is my guru

So wise, kind and yet cynical all at the same time. I love his theory in this interview about how writers are specialized cells, or organisms. My personal theory of the universe, the way of thinking by which I am guided, is holistic. Partly, or mostly, derived from what I know of Taoism and how it approaches the world in which we live.

I have been on a Vonnegut kick lately, going through God Bless You Mr. Rosewater, Bluebeard, Deadeye Dick and now on Mother Night, with Sirens of Titan and Fates Worse Than Death on deck. Amazon, it seems, has been tempting me by offering on a weekly basis one Vonnegut book for $1.99. Can’t beat it with a stick, that much wisdom for that little money. What he offers in his body of work, amid all the wackiness, is an alternate or secret history of the twentieth and the early twenty first centuries. He may not have made it into that essentially worthless entity called “the canon” due to his absurdity, but why not? I have some ideas on this, most of which involves academics with sticks up their asses. We don’t need people who can show us the seriousness in life through the prism of literature, for isn’t life serious enough as it is? Isn’t that why we spend so much time through so many ways, evolving every day, to escape it? I submit that we are much better served by folks, like my beloved Kurt, who can make us laugh and see the absurdity of the existence in which we live, and just maybe help us to learn something about ourselves in the process.

Vonnegut Wooden Nickel

Vonnegut Wooden Nickel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Excellent Guardian interview with Rebecca Solnit

She is so interested in, and engaged with, the world in which she lives. In the interview, the interviewer applies the term “psychogeographer” to her, and I can’t disagree with her. Psychogeography is such an antiseptic, academic sounding term. What it is, to me, is a way of being in the world in which you are aware and receptive to what is going on around you, and ideally to the effects of these impressions on you. Plus ca change, ya know – everything old is new again. I have aspirations to be a Taoist sage – have sometimes said that if someone held a gun to my head and demanded I name a religion, I would name Taoism. The ancient Taoist sages were just nodes in the network, to use present day terminology. They realized that one of the curious things about being human, perhaps the MOST curious thing, is that we are simultaneously, constantly, both connected to all that is around us, and utterly separate. Both islands in the stream, and the stream itself. What most separates us from our animal companions, from all the other beings that inhabit this world, is that, for better or worse, we are completely AWARE of this separation. One of my gurus, Kurt Vonnegut, talks a bit, a lot even, of we humans with our big brains and the trouble we can cause with them. It’s a constant, running theme in all of his work, in fact. Wittingly or unwittingly, the powers of our big brains often provoke us to run harum scarum through the world, often creating havoc wherever we go. Our responsibility, to revert to a cliche, is to use these powers for good, to realize that for whatever reason this happened – God, a random evolutionary accident, whatever – we have an obligation, a duty, to use this gift to become more aware of the wondrous universe in which we live and, when given the opportunity, to make it a better place for ALL concerned.