Thursday, April 29, 2010

35 - Let's Go Fly a Kite

A person with a kite can make it dip, turn, and flutter at will...It's fun flying a kite, feeling the gigantic tug on the end of your line. Sometimes the wind is so strong that it will nearly lift you off the ground. When you harness the forces of nature, you harness something quite powerful. This is an example of the proper utilization of Tao.
~ from 365 Tao: Daily Meditations, Entry 35 ~
By and large, I love the phraseology used by Deng Ming-Dao. I think he consistently paints a most descriptive picture. In this case, however, I have a bit of an issue with the choice of the word, harness.

I'm not suggesting its application here is altogether incorrect. To harness something means to bring it under control and direct the force of. When speaking of kites, we direct the force of nature to help us control the movements of the kite itself.

So, if the word harness indeed describes the mechanism involved, what's my beef?

Too often, humankind's efforts to "harness" the natural world go terribly awry. We've dammed rivers for flood control as well as to generate electrical energy and, in the process, we've injured or nearly destroyed many an ecosystem. We spend millions of dollars each year fighting forest fires when fire is one of nature's chief tools for reinvigorating an area. We've harnessed oil and coal; one of the byproducts of these two fuels is untold pollution.

In example after example, we trade narrow purposes and short-term gains for long-term headaches of our own making! Consequently, the use of the word harness represents a slippery slope, one that we tend to slide down to land on our collective keesters.

Secondly, to be in the position to harness something means that one needs to be in a position of power. A slave doesn't harness his master; it's the other way around!! We humans are NOT the masters of the universe. In fact, compared to nature, we're insignificant peons. If anything, the universe (Tao) harnesses us!

I would have much preferred if the passage had stuck with the word utilized. Any being -- slave OR master -- can utilize (i.e., make use of) something for a purpose.

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