Sunday, May 17, 2009

Anything Goes?

The world has gone mad today
And good's bad today,
And black's white today,
And day's night today,
When most guys today
That women prize today
Are just silly gigolos
And though I'm not a great romancer
I know that I'm bound to answer
When you propose,
Anything goes.
~ from the musical, Anything Goes by Cole Porter ~

When I talk to people in the local community about Taoism -- a philosophy so foreign to many American sensibilities -- quite a few people have asked: If each person must find their own path, does this mean that anything goes?

I can readily understand their concern. Under our religion-infused system, the thought is that there must be moral standards to constrain the masses from wanton debauchery, theft, murder and all forms of abuse. If, under a Taoist system, people are allowed to define such things for themselves, then a person who desires to have sex with children or a person who wants to kill others he/she doesn't like would be free to do so, right?

The problem with this kind of analysis is that it misconstrues the concept of finding one's own path. Taoists believe that nature -- something we already are part of -- should be our guide. In nature, there is no desire and intent, only being. All the nefarious activities listed above have intent at their very core.

When a tornado falls from the sky to wreck havoc on the earth below, it's not because the atmosphere has an axe to grind with the trees or people below. Tornadoes occur because of a complex matrix of climatic cause and effect.

When an eagle swoops down to kill a rabbit or a cougar takes down a deer, it's not because the "victim" insulted the aggressor, it's the natural cycle of things. Eagles and cougars need to eat to stay alive and their biology dictates that most of their nutrition must come from meat.

In the two examples cited above, intent is the variable that's missing.

Contrast this with a rapist or murderer. Both commit their heinous crimes with the intent of satisfying a desire. If the desire and intent are removed, then the crimes wouldn't be committed as they would serve no internal purpose.

So, the key to understanding the belief in finding one's own path in this life is to do so devoid of desire and intent. Strip these two away and no morality is needed. People would live in harmony with nature and each other.


  1. I think, for me, intention is important to have. Intention to act of desire. Or free of the motivations of desires.

  2. Nice post. nature is already perfect, in Taoism we seek to let go of the artificially contrived aspects of intention, which is self motivated desire. And merely go with the flow.

  3. Yes the wonderful idea that being without "God" means there's no reason to be good... I hear this way to often at a Christian blog I go to. It makes you want to knock sense into some people, cause really, how can anyone believe that? ;)


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