Saturday, May 2, 2009

Why I Am Not a Taoist

Reflection Assignment for my Modern Chinese Philosophy Professor

July 2008

When you announced to us at the start of the first lecture that you would be teaching the entire course on Taoism, a big smile came across my face, and I felt a strong feeling of joy; for it is something I had been wanting to learn about for quite some time. The original curriculum of the course as described at the university website was the philosophy of Mao, which would have become much too dry, I think. So already I had something to thank you for, and something to look forward to. I had only known two things about Taoism: 1. That it was gaining considerable momentum in the Western World, and, from my own induction, based on what I had heard about its philosophy, that 2. it is thoroughly atheistic. That greatly appealed to me. To then learn that it is a system based on nature made me all the more delighted. After all – I am a nature boy. Always have been.

The very first lecture was my favourite. Not just for the humour and the outrageous idea of the talking snake in the book of Genesis actually being a giant phallus in disguise, but also for finally finding out the real origins of marriage. I was always suspicious of this ridiculous thing called “holy matrimony.” Of course, at this stage of my life I know that nothing deemed holy has any truth to it, as “holy” is merely a word and mask. The fact that the Tao Teh Ching is not considered a holy book already makes it clear that Taoism is not a religion. This pleases me, as faith is not required, and petty metaphysical debates of nonsense are not encouraged within the Taoist community and, hence, virtually nonexistent. Very noble. It shocks me how many people still have faith in deities, dogma and the absurd institution of marriage. You’re right: most people are stupid. Back in first semester, I took Philosophy of Gender and Sexuality and my thesis statement for my final essay was: “marriage is an impractical and failed by-product of religion.” Now I know, thanks to you, sir, that it is a by-product of the rise of agriculture, and merely sanctified by religion, in particular the patriarchy of the Abrahamic religions. It is appalling, and one more piece of evidence that a holy truth is nothing but a sanctioned lie: the hardest kind to uproot – and eradicate.

As for the actual philosophy of Taoism, there is much I agree with, and much I do not. Much of the philosophy greatly coincides with a great deal of the conclusions and ideas I have already come to on my own through experience, reasoning and the acceptance of both human nature and nature itself. I have always been a very intuitive person and have used this instinctively (at times reflexively) to help me in my life. And whenever I have gone against my instincts and gut-feelings, I have suffered greatly for it. “Hence, the sage is guided by what he feels, and not what he sees. He prefers what is within to what is without” (Lao Tzu, Tao Teh Ching, Part 12). For me, those words ring loud and clear. To me, life is absolutely beautiful and wondrous. Every day is a new adventure. And so I strongly agree with Lao Tzu, at the very core of me, that if you don’t value life, nothing will matter.

However, I am also a very ambitious person – inexorably so – with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Plus, I do take pride in myself, and have earned that right. In Taoism there is a clear attack on these things, just as there is in Christianity – my archenemy. I reject this Taoist and Christian will and call for complacency and stagnation. I do believe in progress, and I do most certainly believe in self-preservation, for it is key. That is why I cringe at the very idea of loving my enemies. Like Christopher Hitchens, it is one of the reasons I think Christianity is immoral, and strongly disagree with you that this command of Christ’s is a “breakthrough.” It is not. It is a vile, degenerate corruption of our much-needed animal instincts. For is it even remotely natural for us to love our enemies? Certainly not. This defies nature at full force. It epitomizes the most ruthless moving against its grain. I agree with Thomas Paine in his conclusion to The Age of Reason that no one can voluntarily love another, and to even attempt to do this, inevitably leads to hypocrisy, for it is a hypocritical command and can breed nothing else but its kind.

Are the Iraqi people supposed to love George W. Bush? Is it fair in the least to put such a Pharisaic burden on them or anyone else? I think not. As for me, I simply love and care about myself too much to do such a creepy and crippling thing. And I believe that if someone smites you on one cheek you should smash them on the other. Eye for an eye is not enough. They must be rendered too useless and terrified to ever even dare to hurt you again. I wish to be a haunting image in the minds of all my enemies. After all, I know there is no God to protect me. I have to do it myself, and, indeed, I do take pleasure in it. Unless, of course, “love” in Taoism is only meant in the action sense of the word, and not in the emotional – which cannot be forced. If this is the case, I can only accept it very rarely, when doing good for my enemies in a “loving” action or manner is actually beneficial to me, but only then.

So in taking this fascinating and enjoyable course of yours, Professor, and earnestly following along as you led us through The Way of Virtue, I must ardently thank you from the bottom of my heart for speaking so much truth, for not being afraid to offend a few sanctimonious fools and dead-heads, for making us laugh, think and for only expecting us to listen and open our minds. But most of all I sincerely thank you for having me now know with full certainty that a Taoist – I could never be.

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