Tuesday, May 10, 2011


by Scott Bradley

There. I’ve been wanting to use that word, and now I have. I only wish I could speak it, as well. With a French accent. It’s just not the same without it.

In any case, I must now build a few paragraphs around it. But that shouldn’t be too difficult. I think of it when I say ‘indifference’. Somehow to say that one must approach the world with a certain indifference sounds too harsh — too indifferent.

Worse still, to say that one should not care, as in the ‘saying’, “Can you forget the world; can you cease to care at all?”, sounds just plain evil. Yet this is basically what insouciance means (I think), though it sounds so much nicer. It means to be carefree. I thought of it when I wrote about feng lui, that certain je ne sais pas qua (since we’re speaking French — though I might have misspelled qua) which describes the way of life of certain Neo-Taoists.

Tao does not care. It is the Source of all that is. It has provided you with the life you live and all it takes to sustain it. It nurtures you. But it does not care about you. It is not emotionally involved in your issues. It takes no interest in you. It does not answer your prayers.

“Tao is inhumane. The sage is inhumane.” “Tao treats people like straw-dogs. The sage treats people like straw-dogs.” The sage is Tao-like. And this is true in both the nurturing and the insouciance. Somehow these are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, somehow the indifference makes the nurturing possible. Because she is carefree, she is free to care without caring, to love without possessing.

I love the end of Camus’ L’Etranger (more French!). The protagonist sits in his prison cell awaiting the dawn and the guillotine. He has committed murder, but faces the ultimate penalty because he has shown indifference to the world. (He smoked at his mother’s wake!) Looking out through the tiny window at the fading stars of dawn he suddenly realizes “the benign indifference of the Universe and there finds a brother.” He has no regrets — he has lived his life honestly. All that remains is to pass through the jeering crowds and lose his head at peace.

Forgive me, this has been a bit of a self-indulgent ramble — I’ll try to do better in future.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

1 comment:

  1. qua=quoi

    The phrase is "je ne sais quoi" (sans "pas"):
    "I do not know what."

    (Self-indulgent bi-lingual copy editor attack.)

    Insouciance can also mean carelessness or thoughtlessness, like mindlessness. Not always a good thing. Carefree and careless are not quite the same.

    I am trying to reconcile these comments with what the Taoist hermit told me...to have a loving heart (ai xin). You don't hear that too often in Taoist talk, but there it is.


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