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andythefragile's avatar

Untitled Taoist Poem

A modest attempt to explain some taoist ideas. There is no perfect way in any language to describe most of what I'm trying to convey, so bear with me. If anyone takes anything from this poem, it's more than I could have hoped for.

I am really trying to avoid cliché ideas here; it shouldn't sound like typical carpe diem stuff. I hesitate to explain details of it, so people can get their own ideas from it, but I will touch on some points for clarification

the first two lines are kind of a disclaimer, which reflects the idea "The Tao which can be spoken of is not the true Tao." It is the poetic equivalent to the first paragraph in this description i'm writing now, lol

The next part refers to René Descartes, who was a brilliant scientist and mathematician, but not such a brilliant philosopher. The poem explains that his famous statement, "Cogito ergo sum" or "I think, therefore I am" is a false, egotistical idea. The reference to "Western thought" explains that it typically is more self-centered. Eastern philosophy (i.e. Buddhism, Taoism, etc.) is not. It will help you understand taoism more if you throw out the idea of the "self"

hope you enjoy
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thetangyzip's avatar
So........... you're a Taoist now? I missed the memo.

Okay, so I had to look up "caveat" and "descartian," but I couldn't find any evidence of the later. Did you mean "discern?" Why not just get rid of that word and capitalize the M? You don't need that word anyway.

I had to read the first stanza about 8 times before I was able to "discern" anything from it. The wording is awkward. I really like:

"...using words to say there are no words to use."

Is there any way you could make that it's own line, to make it stand out. Maybe something like but not exactly:

I present to you a paradox
Using words to say there are no words to use
Would that you... etc.


Anyway, the piece does provide an interesting look at a different philosophy. I can understand, but could never relate. Taoism is definitely not meant for people with ADHD. I'll tell you the truth, the VERY FIRST thought that ran through my head when I read, "Look left or right and you will let this sacred moment pass you by" was What if something even more special is happening unexpectedly off to the side? Heh. But that's me.

I guess my one Taoist reservation is that I've mostly given up on the future. But what I've found is that giving up on the future is giving up on hope. Because what is hope? Hope is the drive to believe that something will work out in the future. A philosophy that embraces only the present and bears no concern for the future is a philosophy without hope. To live without hope is the emptiest state of conscious existence.

Frankly I'd rather drink myself stupid and experience happiness vicariously through recalling the past. And most of the time, both.

I do have a favorite quote in response to the last stanza:

So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay
-- Robert Frost
andythefragile's avatar
The memo was on myspace.

Descartian: Of or relating to René Descartes. The word is important, because I'm discussing widespread misconception based on his flawed logic.

I agree there are some lines that cause the eye to stumble, I should have probably established a meter with something more straightforward before I introduced those two lines, because it makes it easier to read when you consider the iambic rhythm of the rest of the poem. I didn't want to spend much time on the first two lines because they were more of a disclaimer, but maybe they belong at the end instead of the beginning, especially if they present such a stumbling block so early on.

To live without hope is indeed the emptiest state of conscious existence, and that emptiness, or "wu", is one of the most important principals of Taoist teachings, but it is not the kind of "dismal" emptiness you portray; it is not very dissimilar to the Christian concept of "giving it up to God". I once mentioned in a personal testimony in front of the Central College Presbyterian Church congregation that I realized it was not important to pray for what I wanted to happen, but to pray for the best, because God knows best, and everything happens for a reason. Looking back, that was a small step towards my thought process today. In Taoism, the concept of "hope" is negative and seen as worldly desire.

Thank you very much for taking the time
thetangyzip's avatar
Ah myspace... Paul and I will perpetually be out of the loop.

You might want to hyphenate Descart-ian, or make it Descartes-like. In order not to appear stupid I asked everyone in the office if they knew what the word meant (after checking numerous on-line dictionaries), and we all came up blank. No one thought to link it to Descartes. The explanation was quite a relief this morning.

On the whole, I think the piece should have a smoother flow in reference to the subject matter portrayed. It's difficult to follow, and thus seems contradictory. Again, this is just me, I tend to look farther into things than intended.

As far as the wu/hope ordeal: I can totally see that. I can somewhat see the ties between wu and "giving it up to God" as well, but I would add some distinguishing separators between the two. Christianity embraces hope. It's one of the fundamentals of the belief, hope that God will work with life to make everything work out. But then I guess it depends who you ask, some believe in 100% predestination, some less so.

As Christians say, it's all part of God's plan, but that's really not the same as being a leaf in a flowing river. Christians give their concerns to God, but still feel that decisions and actions have an important bearing on the future (lots of sweeping generalizations here). A loss of conscious control of life as complete as wu would render many sacred principles of Christianity obsolete, such as marriage and repenting sins. What is the point of bonding eternally if all that exists is the moment? Same is repenting sins of the past to cleanse the future.

The Christian version of predestination to me seems to be more positive... hopeful, fortunate. I'm not an expert, but to me the Eastern views seem more so if not at times completely neutral. Rather than "Everything will work out," it's "What will be will be." There is no hope in that. Granted the former is bullshit, but a great many people truly mean that when they say it. Especially Christians. "Jesus loves you and will watch over you." That's hope.

I envy that.

To be so sure of something. To be so positive that something is forever. My belief is that only two things are forever: God and true love. Since neither exist, there is no forever.
andythefragile's avatar
yeah i think the problem is it's totally overworked and therefore complicated and NOT smooth, which is, as you said, totally contradictory....i wrote these like two lines that were good and then i tried to force the rest of the stuff into that format, and then i was trying to think of filler kuz it was too short...this was definitely something that didn't flow naturally out of me and that's the major issue here...i wrote this other one a while ago that is badass and took me like 15 mintues to write and this one took me a month or two.

yeah the "what will be will be" thing seems kind of not on the bright and cheery side of things...thats not to say i dont envy people who can believe that sort of thing, i just cant bring myself to...yeah, heh "true love" and "god" included. maybe envy isnt the right word, but i can appreciate it at least, for what it is