Zhuge Liang

I have loved Hong Kong films since the early 1990s when I saw John Woo’s  “Hard Boiled” with Chow Yun Fat and Tony Leung.  I love the epic historical film, as well.  I recently saw John Woo’s “Red Cliff” – the international release, not the “short” American release.  Red Cliff is spoken in Chinese and is well delivered by the wonderfully outstanding cast.  the english subtitles are beautifully written.  I totally enjoyed this film.

One of the historical main characters of the “Battle of Red Cliffs” is Zhuge Liang, a chancellor of Shu Han.  He lived 181–234, and is variously known as Kongming, aka Crouching Dragon.  The actor who is him totally brings this man to life –  I am enchanted with Zhuge Liang.

I am currently reading Thomas Cleary’s translation of Zhuge’s commentary on Sun Tzu’s “Art of War”.°  From his introduction are some quotes I especially like.  To his nephew he wrote:

“Aspirations should remain lofty and far-sighted. Look to the precedents of the wise. Detach from emotions and desires; get rid of any fixations. Elevate subtle feelings to presence of mind and sympathetic sense. Be patient in tight situations as well as easy situations; eliminate all pettiness.”

“Seek knowledge; be questioning widely; set aside aversion and reluctance. What loss is there in dignity, what worry is there of failure?”

“If your will is not strong, if your thought does not oppose injustice, you will fritter away your life stuck in the commonplace, silently submitting to the bonds of emotion, forever cowering before mediocrities, never escaping the downward flow.”

To his son:

“The practice of a cultivated man is to refine himself by quietude and develop virtue by frugality. With out detachment, there is no way to clarify the will; without serenity, there is no way to get far.”

“Study requires calm, talent requires study. Without study there is no way to expand talent; without calm there is no way to accomplish study.”

“If you are lazy, you cannot do thorough research; if you are impulsive, you cannot govern your nature.”

“The years run off with the hours, aspirations flee with the years. Eventually one ages and collapses. What good will lamenting over poverty do?”

It certainly sounds like he read both the Dao De Jing and the Nei-yeh.  In the movie, his character says, “To know a trifle about everything adds color to life,” which caused me to pause the film so I could write than down.  We are lucky to have what we do have about Zhuge Liang – I am glad to know such a man exists.

° technically, as far as i can discern, takeshi kaneshiro is the reincarnated zhuge liang, who at the time of the biounit known as zhuge liang’s occurance, zhuge liang was the reincarnated sunzi; which means that takeshi kaneshiro is the reincarnated Sun Tzu as well as the previously mentioned reincarnated zhuge liang, who is also known as KONGMING and crouching dragon.

Chapter 77

The Rambling Taoist is posting a commentary of the Dao De Jing on his blog.  I am attempting to do a commentary for Chapter 53 & 77 from Ellen Chen’s translation

The way of heaven,
Is it not like stretching a bow?
What is high up is pressed down,
What is low down is lifted up;
What has surplus is reduced,
What is deficient is supplemented.
The way of heaven,
It reduces those who have surpluses,
To supplement those who are deficient.
The human way is just not so.
It reduces those who are deficient,
To offer those who have surpluses.
Who can offer his surpluses to the world?
Only a person of Tao.
Therefore the sage works without holding on to,
Accomplishes without claiming credit.
Is it not because he does not want to show off his merits?

Her general comment is:

Heaven promotes equality, whereas humans are the cause of inequality in the world.

Nature acts as a pendulum – never swinging into irreversible excess.  Man goes too far to excess and causes deficiencies.  Global Warming is a blatant example.  We may be sowing the seeds of our own extinction with our over use of the planet’s resources.  Nature will recover; we may not.

It is better to not have more than you need and to not go to excess.  It is better to let your accomplishments speak for themselves, than to build up your ego claiming merits for what you do.  Nature claims no credit; we are all here in Nature.  We must learn to live within the Carrying Capacity of the planet.

Chapter 53 of the Dao De Jing

The Rambling Taoist is posting a commentary of the Dao De Jing on his blog.  I am attempting to do a commentary for Chapter 53 & 77 from Ellen Chen’s translation

If I have a little (chieh-jan) knowledge (chih),
To walk the great path (Tao),
I shall fear this:
The great path (Tao) is very flat and easy,
Yet others (jen) are fond of bypaths.
The courts are very neat,
The fields are very weedy,
The granaries are very empty.
Wearing embroidered clothes,
Carrying sharp swords,
Being surfeited with foods and drinks.
To accumulate wealth and treasures in excess,
This is called robbery and crime.
This is not to follow Tao.

Chen’s commentary says this chapter is referring to rulers and government.  Her general comment is:

In the spirit of the uncarved wood, Taoists are physiocrats who favor farming as the economic basis for the state.  Taoists like to see wealth spread among the people.  A splendid court and undue accumulation of wealth by the ruling class signify an empty granary and state treasury.

This chapter doesn’t require much commentary.  One can easily see how our government and the culture at large is not following Tao.  One can also easily apply this chapter to their own life.  To have more than one needs when others don’t have enough is not in harmony with Tao.

What is Daoism to Me?

I have been having a conversation with the Cloudwalking Owl, author of one of my favorite blogs, Diary of a Daoist Hermit.  In his last email, he made the statement, “As for Daoism, it all depends on what you mean by it.”  I’d like to explore that a little here.

What does Daoism mean to me?  More than anything, I think Daoism teaches one to live in harmony with the planet.  As a species, we are not in harmony with nature, so even could I live within the confines of our planet’s resources, I would make little difference.  That doesn’t mean, I don’t try.  I always take my own totebags for groceries, all my lightbulbs are the florescent type, I try to drive as little as possible, I try to buy local food, and I am moving towards being vegetarian.  I try not to be a consumer.  Most of my reading and movies come from the library.  I do shop at thrift stores for clothing and household goods.  I also donate back to the charitable thrift stores.  I try to keep as much out of a land fill as possible.  I am experiencing guilt about cleaning out my garage.  I put a lot of stuff out in the alley, in hope that it will get picked up by someone.  I intend to freecycle some stuff as well, but there were some things that went into the dumpster.  I feel bad about not living up to my intentions for the stuff.  I am doing the best I can, even though it isn’t enough to stop global warming or avert any crisis.  I do what I can do to be as harmonious with nature as possible.  That practice in daily life is how my Daoism manifests itself.  When I put something in the bin to recycle or compost, I am thinking of the planet, my home, that which gave birth to all the life of which we are aware.

I also read Daoist’s texts.  I have Chen’s translation of the Dao De Jing in hard copy, but most of the other reading has been online.  I have had a number of translations of the Dao De Jing.  I have read parts of other texts.  I study the concepts yin and yang, and tend now to think about the yin and yang of any given situation.  I also study the trigrams, and even organized my music by trigram for a while.  I have spent a great deal of time thinking about what I have read in the Dao De Jing.  I try to understand it, and where it might apply to my life.

And then there is my practice of Tai Chi.  I do a Yang Short Form.  I have been doing the form form 10 years and still feel challenged by it.  I have played with the form, as well.  I have lengthened it, and tried to reverse it.  I still do just the form as I learned it at least once per day.  I miss the occasional day and feel funny when I do.  I have learned more about meditation by doing Tai Chi, than any book I have read.  Tai Chi is sometimes called moving meditation, and I have had experiences doing it where time seems to fall away from me.  It is very pleasant.  Plus, I have received the health benefits of doing the form.  I think of my form as the most minimum formal exercise I must do.  I can always do more, but that little short form can take me into old age.

Those are all ways in which I express myself as a Daoist.  But they are not the only things I do.  I have a cat and I watch her hunt in the yard.  Luna locks onto her prey and suddenly blends into the landscape.  Then very slowly stalks whatever creature she is hunting.  She is a Daoist to me.  She is harmonious with nature without trying.  Yes, one could argue that she is not harmonious, but a killer and up-setter of a fragile urban ecosystem.  Well, she is always true to her cat nature.  She doesn’t pretend to be what she isn’t.  I always rescue the birds she captures, if it is not too late.  Most of the time no death happens.

My most recent rescue was a baby bird.  It had a red tuft on its neck and when I went to break up the skiffle, I was struck with fear that I was too late and would have to finish off the bird or let Luna do so.  For a second, I was freaked, but as I scooped up the little one, I realized I was holding a completely unharmed, but in shock, baby woodpecker.  Oh the joy of finding such an unusual bird in my hood.  I live in the city proper, not a ‘burb.  I took the bird to a bush in a far neighbour’s front yard.  When I checked back a little later, I had the delight of seeing the baby fly to a tree across the street.  No harm done.  That whole transaction was a manifestation of Dao for me.

There was one occasion that I didn’t get to Luna and her prey in time, and I had to put a small bird out of its misery.  It happened a couple of years ago, but is still fresh in my mind.  I did the deed quickly, then had a bit of a cry.  I wasn’t angry with Luna; she is a cat, and cats hunt.  I was mad at myself for not getting to it sooner.  And again, this was Dao for me.

But what does Daoism mean to me?  It is the public name for my spirituality.  It is my claimed religion.  I think of the Dao De Jing as a book of ethics.  Finding Dao enabled me to put a name to what I have always felt, but could never articulate.  The first time I read the Dao De Jing, I felt as if I were coming home.  I found in those pages a way to think about the insanity that is human culture without wanting to die.

I was raised as a Catholic.  The concept of God has never sat well with me.  Even as a child, I was not able to just accept and believe everything I was taught.  And about God, I was taught a lot.  As a child, one does indeed accept whatever is given by parents and my mom did her best to raise both my sister and me as good Christians.  The foundation she laid was on Jesus’ teachings and she taught by example.  She would really try to answer the question for herself, What would Jesus do? for any given problem.  And she has an enormous amount of Faith in God.  She has the ability to do her best, and then leave it to God.  I never had such ability as faith in God was not something I could grasp.

Words and their meaning are important to me.  My mother was an English teacher. As the eldest, I had her attention all to myself for the first 3 years of my life. I walked and talked during my first year because she carried me around naming things and teaching me the words for objects.  By 18 months, I was beginning to speak in full sentences.  I was about 8 or 9 years old when I heard John Lennon’s Imagine.  That song changed everything for me.  I thought a lot about that song; it encapsulated for me Jesus’ best teachngs.

I was in 8th grade when John was murdered.  I can’t forget when the news came over the radio.  As I heard he was dead, I felt my world being ripped from me.  I started to weep and I still cry about the loss of John.  I did a paper for Religion class about how he is my generation’s Jesus.  This did not go over well.  I got in trouble and was told I was wrong, which only strengthened my conviction that I was right.

When I graduated high school, I began to walk away from all organized religion.  I knew of none at the time that didn’t require a belief in God.  And my definition of God also comes from John Lennon.  He said, “God is a concept by which we measure our pain.”  That is truth to me.  I was more into nature and the wonder of the biological world and as far as what I needed from religion, I got from John.

I did call myself an atheist for a time.  I really don’t believe in a deity.  I was forced to at least pretend to believe when I was little, but as I grew up, I could not hold onto that idea. Spirituality is a personal thing for me – I did not know Dao yet.  I would go camping and feel that I was as close to “God” as a non being as I could get.  This worked for me until my 33rd year when I experienced a spiritual crisis of monumental proportions.

Late in 1999, I was diagnosed with Bi-polar Schizo-effective Disorder.  In early 2000, I took up tai chi as exercise.  I was into Hong Kong films, especially Jet Li movies.  Later, in the spring, my sister and I visited a friend in Chicago.  We spoke of my spiritual crisis and my desire for something outside of myself.  He told me of the Tao Te Ching as translated by Ellen Chen.  He had a copy and let me look at it.  I remember being in his pristine living room and reading the first chapter and KNOWING, “I am a Daoist.”

Still, have I answered the question, what Daoism means to me?  Following Dao, I believe Life is a process, not a thing.  Change is all there is.  There is nothing static about our reality, despite any appearance to the contrary.  I am sceptical of anything that doesn’t accord with that truth.

I don’t think I have satisfactorily answered his question, but I know on some level the question doesn’t really have an answer.  If life is not static, my definition and practice of Daoism can’t be pinned down with words, but only expressed by my being.  And my expression is probably not indicative of all Daoism.  I don’t know many Daoists, and I haven’t found a group of Daoists here in Saint Louis.  Also, I have not been ready to communicate with others about my Daoism.   I had to get comfortable on my own with the religion as I see it, and begin to put it into practice in my life.  I didn’t want to learn about Daoism through an institution.  Now, I am perhaps open to learning and practising some group activity on Dao, but I really feel that Dao as a religion demands that you do the math yourself – you must determine what Dao means to you.

My Ecological Footprint

I have always been concerned about my individual, and our collective impact on the planet.  I have never doubted that we collectively have an enormous influence on earth.  But how can I determine my individual impact?  I am not adept in either math or science, but I am capable of learning.  In the early aughts, I went looking for some accounting of humans and our resource use and found  Redefining Progress.  They have developed a quiz you can take to estimate your ecological footprint.

When I first took the eco footprint calculation in ~2003 my score was 4.62 Earths needed to support my consumptive lifestyle for everybody.   That obviously is not sustainable.  1 or less is the sustainable number here as we only have the one planet on which to live.  I was way below the US average, but still way too consumptive.  I was already recycling, and had switched to florescent lighting.  I drastically reduced the meat in my diet and reduced the amount of driving I do.

Prior to taking the quiz, I had already determined that I wanted to live in a way that everybody could live.  I wanted to find a way to live in society, but in balance with nature.

I thought it was time to revisit the quiz and see where I am right now.  Having made changes, I am ready to do a little more. According to Redefining Progress my current Ecological Footprint is 2.62.  That means for everyone to live my lifestyle, 2.62 earths are needed.  Still too high.

The initial push on my part to reduce my consumption was very successful.  But it was also relatively easy.  Now I am faced with more difficult choices.

The fact of the matter is:  We as a species are yearly using more resources and generating more waste than our planet can create and absorb.  We are overshooting – living beyond our means.

It is very challenging to face one’s own greed.  I need to make a major change in my lifestyle.  I don’t want to feel this need.  I want to be able to think “oh they could be wrong” or “i don’t make a difference, so why bother” or “i already do enough – i shouldn’t have to do more”.

But spiritually, I need to try to live with a footprint of one.  In the 90s, I gave a child up for adoption.  I can’t help but think how my excess is taking away from her future.

Doing the right thing is important to me.  It is important to always strive to do what is best ethically.  My mother laid my foundation in ethics.  Mom taught us (my sister and me) to treat each other as we wish to be treated.  She also taught us to respect the Earth. This can be challenging in today’s culture.

But I am trying.  It is hard for me to talk about this at all, even on the blog.  I am contributing to the destruction of the planet by my lifestyle, which is very frugal.  I live in the inner city, use compact florescent bulbs,  drive less than 25 mile a week, use tote bags for all my shopping, recycle everything i can, buy used when i can.   I pick up recyclable “trash” when i am out and about – I toss is in my car and empty it when I take in household recycling.   90% of my crafting materials are acquired at thrift stores.

In order to bring my footprint size down now, I am becoming a vegetarian.  I was raised with meat at almost every meal.  I drastically cut my meat consumption in the 90s when I began learning how we get that meat to the table.  I didn’t want to face the fact that even eating a little supports an industry that is destructive.  I bought what is called eco-friendly,  but if i am eating more that what is sustainable how do i know?  I don’t.  Sure there is some amount of meat I could eat that would fall within the carrying capacity of the planet, but what is the amount?  How do I determine that amount.  And with a growing population, that number is going to get smaller and smaller.  Easier to just give up the meat.

Doing so gets my eco footprint down to 1.83 earths – still too high.  But I can’t do everything at once and I’d rather give up meat than my car.

The Earth produces a finite amount of resources There is so much temptation to consume all kinds of things and since I am of this culture, I am conditioned to it, but I have been fighting that conditioning since I was a little child.

No matter what I do, everybody has their own personal ethics system.   I can only change myself.  If I come to the determination that I need to change because what I am doing is unethical, then I need to change.

I don’t know if it is possible to live in balance with what the earth can provide and still have any mobility.  If i stick with being a vegetarian and switch to public transit, I am still at 1.65 – not sustainable.  But it is closer.

I have to try.  Must,  because I know the only ethical way to really live and have any contentment is to be within the regenerative carrying capacity of Earth.

How do you feel about your ecological footprint?  Do you feel obligated to try to live sustainably?  I hope so, because we are all in this together.

tao links

Luna, my nocturnal cat, woke me @ 3:30 am, the little dear.  So, I surfed. I googled blogs on taoism:

Welcome | Daoist Studies 道教研究

Christian Taoism

The Rambling Taoist

Taoism Virtual Library

TMGID.pdf (application/pdf Object)

The Path of Water – 21st century Taoism

An Uncarved Blog: Productivity, Tai Chi and Living Change

Taoism In Rhetoric « Girly Stories

New Taoist Community

Declutterization

It’s not a word, but it means what I intend to happen.  This year, I am going thru all my possessions and getting rid of that which I haven’t used, am not using, and seriously don’t ever anticipate using.

This means a lot of books for sure.  I am gonna keep only the favored fiction and all crafting.  I am gonna get rid of old school books – most of ’em, books I haven’t touched in years.

I stay fairly current in clothing, but I could reduce the amount of clothes and shoes.  I have 3 pairs of tennis shoes, but I alternate and wear every pair.

I am gonna go thru my yarn and fabric and sell/give away whatever I have that I do not see using.  It is sad, but true, that I kinda want more room for quilting fabric.  I know I determined that I was gonna stick with 12 bins.  But I really think my quilts look best with as many different fabrics as possible.  I don’t really love quilts that have only a few coordinated fabrics.  I like the chaos of tons of different fabrics contained in a pattern.

Hardware stuff I am

It is difficult to know what I will ever use and I hate to get rid of something and a year later find out I needed it, but I do feel the pressure of owning too much stuff.  The responsibility of owning too much stuff.  I don’t like it.  Like, we here in america are using more than our fair share of the global resources and I feel hoarding stuff I am not using is on par with that.  I think the TTC (tao te ching) tries to teach do and have what is necessary and not go to excesses in any case.  Hard to do in this materialistic culture.

I think I do ok, but I know I am not doing my best.

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