Saturday, May 28, 2005

So Many Paths

Everywhere one looks, others are trying to tell us of the ONE RIGHT WAY. The right car. The right look. The right tampon. The right breakfast cereal. The right cause. The one true way to live our lives.

Back in the 1970s there was a pop group from Australia called the Little River Band. One of the tracks on their "Sleeper Catcher" album is called So Many Paths. The chorus from the song sums up the Taoist belief in the "right way" of anything:
There are so many paths up the mountain, nobody knows all the ways, there are so many paths up the mountain, and the view from the top is still the same.
Taoism recognizes that everybody is different. Each of us observes the world around us in different ways. What appears beautiful to one person, may be ugly to another. What seems direct to one person, may seem completely indirect to someone else.

Because our experiences in the world are unique, so too is our understanding. Consequently, as unique beings, we must necessarily ply our own path up the mountain. It's certainly okay to follow others -- if we so choose -- but WE must take each individual step ourselves.

Religion, by its very nature, teaches the opposite. It postulates that there is but one formula and each of us must replicate it precisely, lest we get lost on our journey. Religion treats people as unintelligent creatures who must be guided and prodded along the one true path.

Again, Taoism runs counter to this conception. Taoists believe that human beings are intuitively intelligent. If we allow ourselves to listen to our inner most voice, we will be able to navigate the terrain.

A river doesn't need a Messiah to tell it how to flow to the ocean. A kangaroo rat doesn't need a holy book to tell it to hide from the hawk. A caterpillar doesn't need to memorize creeds and rituals in order to know when it's time to become a butterfly. (Note: Jesus made many similar points.)

If all these entities -- large and small -- can lead their lives without the need of an omnipotent guide, why can't you and I?

The key is to believe in the inner you, that part of you that is in common with all things. Then, like the river, the rat and the butterfly, you can make your own path up the mountain.

Remember, regardless of the path you choose, the "view from the top is still the same".


  1. A truly beautiful and eloquent essay. I was genuinly touched.

  2. Sounds like you have joined the others you mention in your very first sentence.

    In your quote the view from the top would be the same, but there are a finite number of ways up the mountain (since it has a finite slope). So I'd agree there might very well be more than one path.

    In a previous post of yours you claimed Taoism was only a framework, yet you say Taoism recognizes ... - sorry, but frame works have no capacity to recognize.

    Also, I'm not sure what religion you are referring to that "treats people as unintelligent creatures" but there are many that are not so, some are. I think to make such generalizations is wrong and misleading.

    Again, you go against your previous post of the Taoism=Framework limitation by stating "Taoists believe...". By definition and context you are stating that Taoists have a faith, a confidence, a truth (as they would see it) - all part of what makes up a religion. From the History of Taoism: Taoism started as a combination of psychology and philosophy but evolved into a religious faith in 440 CE when it was adopted as a state religion.

    I'd be more curious why you wish that Taoism NOT be classified as a religion. In a way if you conceded Taoism was just another religion they you'd suddenly be grouped with the great generalizing of your very own post!

    Reminds me of (I like) David Chappelle's skit where a black man from birth hated black people, not knowing he himself was black because he was blind and no one had ever told him.

    Taoism is just another religion with Taoists that think their way is more correct (just like all religions) and every other religion is wrong. In that last statement most forms of Christianity (I'm not one) teach love to the point of worshiping together with many different other religions. YOU, on the other hand, express hatred for religion (other than your own) by making what amounts to character assassinations against them all. So sad....

  3. Doggie,
    First, let me point out that you are confusing religious Taoism with classical (philosophical) Taoism. While it is indeed correct that some turned the latter into a religious organization, I happened to be a believer of classical Taoism.

    Second, human language is often an impediment to true understanding. While I will grant that a "framework" itself recognizes nothing, it does set the frame by which we view things. "Recognizes" is probably not a good choice of a word, but I used it to try to get my point across.

    Third, almost every religion implicitly postulates that people are unintelligent by the very fact that they must be led by supernatural entitites to live the "good life" and reach heaven, nirvana, utopia or whatever.

    Taoism postulates that we each have this power unto ourselves as we are each connected to the universe itself. We don't need to be led at all; our inner voice can be our own guide.

  4. true understanding - those two words of yours mock the very concept of the very Taoism you professor to embrace – a typical religious phrase.

    I do know that Christianity does not implicitly postulates that people are unintelligent by the very fact that they must be led by supernatural entities. On the contrary, it is one of the few that teaches free will. Again you make these broad generalizations targeting all religions other than your own. Now you can call your version of Tao the classical type or whatever – you can even call it a pie and claim all pies that claim to be a pie are not “true pies” (as you did with “true understanding”). That’s the great thing with freedom of expression – you’re free to call yourself whatever you wish.

    BTW, the name I use is JustaDog not Doggie – a term I guess you choose in some attempt to attack my person – totally disrespectful and unbecoming of a true Taoist. I, on the otherhand, call you by the name you leave on my site. Guess that makes me a better person inside, huh Trey?

    Until I see something new you’re just another religious fanatic – grouped with all the rest and full of hate and ready to attack anyone that disagrees with you. I can get all the Tao quotes I want from the internet just like you, so please continue posting other’s words - some are nice and quaint.

  5. Canine-Like Being,
    True Understanding is what it is. I don't understand why you give it religious undertones.

    As to Christianity, a person has "free will" to follow the Christ. A person can choose NOT to follow, BUT they can't make it to the promised land WITHOUT following. So much for the concept of free will!

    I used the word "doggie" because it has just as much meaning as "Justadog". You see, I don't hide behind a nondescript alias as you do. I stand by my words. I don't hide behind a goofy moniker LIKE some people do.

    Finally, hate is a strong word and not one that is truly part of my lexicon. I don't think I've ever "hated" anyone in my life.

    How could I? If we are all connected, then to hate another is tantamount to hating the universe itself -- the supreme form of nihilism!

  6. I feel your hate Trey - it will be your undoing. I've met people like you before - on one side you convey Taoist-like verbage yet your actions do not - far from it.

    "goofy moniker" - who are you to judge what is goofy in the world or not? Who are you to judge if a name someone chooses is nondescript or not? Think you better depart from the world of Taoism for you have learned nothing, and you are such a hypocrite.

  7. If you feel hate, it must be coming from within yourself.

    Why don't you sign things with your real name? What are you afraid of?


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