The pampas of ennui

Being Leonardo Boiko's online Journal, featuring Long & Very Sporadic Essays on any Subject.

Zen and The Tao of

09 June 2012

Zen and Tao epitomize the quest for an intuitive approach to life that stands in opposition (or perhaps, to make the point more nicely, as a complement) to traditional Western rationality. A trip to the library reveals that Zen can be applied fruitfully to the following areas of human endeavor: running, jogging, archery, baseball, martial arts, motorcycle maintenance, photography, assembly language, tea drinking, pottery making, writing, painting, poetry, dancing, flower arrangement, photography, and helping(!). Apparently, even the reclusive J. D. Salinger relied upon Zen in crafting his inimitable fiction without being wholly aware of its capacity to transform our vision.

Recently, it would seem that Tao has surpassed Zen in the number of activities that have been identified as benefiting from its illuminating powers. Whole tomes have been written on the Tao as it pertains to cricket, architecture, management, power, voice, Pooh, sailing, science, relationships, health, sex, longevity, leadership, meditation, onliness(?), freedom, sage religion, nutrition, being, Mao Tse-tung , psychology, medicine, organization, love, communication, programming, the species(?), balanced diet, physics, acupuncture, cooking, symbols, water, Tai-chi (shadow boxing), and health. I have listed these subjects in no particular order to show how Tao reaches into every nook and cranny of our existence.

Of late, still another triliteral talisman has been actively encroaching upon various fields of endeavor. This is pert, little Joy which began inconspicuously in the kitchen with cooking (and eating), moved quickly into the bedroom as a guide for sex, then shifted to the study as a stimulation for lex. In the meantime, Joy has infused sports such as running and flying with newfound pleasure and (a)vocations such as building, gardening, hand weaving, cataloguing, and computing with untold zest, but it remains far behind Tao and Zen in the quest for committed adherents, doubtless because it makes no pretense at being mysterious or awesome. Joy is but a poor country cousin of Tao and Zen.

The canonical formulations of booksand articles illustmting the intrincacies of these two elusive New Age shibboleths are The Tao of.. and Zen in… or Zen and…. This may indicate why Tao has recently been more successful than Zen in annexing various spheres of our lives. Tao is thought of as subsuming entire fields, whereas Zen merely informs or parallels them. Be that as it may, the combined range of Tao and Zen as we near the beginning of the third millennium is absolutely astonishing.

Victor Mair, Tracks of the Tao, Semantics of Zen (1991)

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