Thursday, March 31, 2011

Not a Good Taoist

From time to time, some readers have chastised me for not being a very good Taoist. They charge that my socialist leanings disqualify me from writing anything connected with Taoist philosophy OR that my leftist leanings have poisoned the well of my thought.

These sorts of comments give me quite a chuckle!

It's as if the word Taoist defines a person in their totality. Taoist is merely a label and there are many labels that, in part, define the person I am. Some of the labels that imperfectly define an aspect of me are:
  • Philosophical Taoist
  • Brother
  • Son
  • Husband
  • Eco-Socialist (or Democratic Socialist)
  • Tree-Hugger
  • Pacifist
  • Gardening Enthusiast
  • Writer
  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder
  • Autistic
  • Comedian
  • Soup Maker
  • Keith Olbermann and Bill Maher fan
  • Avid Reader
  • Cat and Dog Lover
And the list could go on and on. Not one of these labels, in isolation, provides you with much of a clue as to who I am. Taken together, you can form an approximate picture of me, but it is still incomplete, nonetheless.

This is as true for me as it is for each of you.

It is all these aspects taken together that impacts any one of these various labels by itself. What would it mean to be a Taoist or a Gardening Enthusiast and nothing else? Can only one aspect of a personality with multiple threads define who a person is?

That is why comments of the nature cited above make me laugh. The underlying assumption is ludicrous on its face.


  1. This is so true. It is ironic that someone would judge you as a bad Taoist. What I know Taoism to be is without labels of good or bad, and discouraging judgment of others.

    I would implore those who feel the need to label you to look deeper into themselves and discover why they feel the need to judge you.

    You are who you are, be at peace with it.

  2. It can be an interesting instructive exercise to consider or sort these labels (for anyone) according to what you ARE (the inner nature, the congenital spirit) and what you BECOME ( the acquired nature, determined by choices and influences.)

    Using your list only as an example, you ARE a man, a brother, a son, but you BECOME a husband, a gardener, a soup maker, a fan of other people's thinking. (I'm not going to venture into the not so well-charted territory of autism/personality disorder and sex change. I know a self-proclaimed Taoist who in fact did have a sex change.)

    Taoist practices and concepts can help sort these out, to know what you can and can not change, to find peace with yourself and your environment.

    And one might reconcile the Taoist/socialist issue by understanding oneself as embodying a sort of dynamic conversation between a Confucian/Aristotelian/Marxist seeker of social order and justice and a Taoist/tree hugger/free spirit. East and west. Yin and yang. Rationality and feeling. Certainty and doubt. And that's all right.


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