Tao

Published online by M Global

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And so it occurred to me that the place of our birth does not always bare refuge for the soul. A hunger waxed and waned in me to move through landscapes that evoked my creative spirit and stimulated my glands to release a sebum not of disdain for my external environment, but of delight. Australia is where my earthly citizenship belongs but the depth of history, which I longed to gorge myself in until my hunger became faint or another evolved, did not reside on the scorching bitumen or within the mirages that beamed above. The flora and fauna, although comforting and familiar, did not quench my thirst, but further entrenched creases into my brow as I squinted towards a sunburnt horizon. The evolution of species could not be transcribed by Alfred Russel Wallace until a bout of malaria shook and shivered his frame into a new perspective, paralysing his body in depth of thought, as circuits of the brain altered course, consequently providing enough evidence for fellow naturalist Charles Darwin to publish The Origin of Species. And I inturn questioned, how could I ever evolve in intelligence and physicality if the conditions which surrounded me did not also change, if they did not send me into fits of awe and wonder. I was destined for evolutionary corruption if I did not seek new lands. Henry David Thoreau suggested a man who does not work does not need to eat. Excess of any kind erodes the being. Excess of comfort encumbers the fault lines of the intuition, severs the electrical circuits of internal dialogue. Numb, one becomes an organism controlled by manmade signs rather than the internal compass which points true north.

A recent diary entry:

I trudged up the bitumen gradient, past lemon trees and a rooster, past a farmer on his tractor. My skin turned a warm red as blood vessels expanded and contracted in the midday Majorcan sun. I scrambled up the rocky sledges of my mind, all the while the transparent, ultra-blue Mediterranean beckoned me from down below. “Why are you up there?” I heard it say. “I have to take a look, I have to see what rests beyond common sight,” I called in response. The birds tinkered like delicate chimes in the trees and the wind moved throughout the Tramuntana mountain range in a sweeping whoosh. I reached an intersection and placed a metaphorical bet with my own mind: heads or tails? No coin was flung in the air, but a force moved me to the right and onwards towards Escallences. And as I continued along the open road, questions circumnavigated my mind. What is truth? Are these white stones beneath my feet honest, placed here by the hands of man? Or am I lending myself as an instrument to society by following the path they produce? Will love bind me to this earthly plane or set me free, the purest emotion of them all, as advocated in the holy texts of history? What life am I in now, is it my first or is it my last, or do I float somewhere in between in the womb of life?

But one cannot simply depart familiar shores and expect to undergo a bout of reprogramming. One must go alone. And in the same way an extended period of silence and meditation encourages the soul and the mind into a state of non-reactory observation, so too does the act of wandering through foreign landscapes alone where the spoken tongue is not familiar, thus forcing one to enter into an immediate and deep conversation with the internal. And once one has superseded this, perhaps they will experience something far more profound. The complete and utter feeling of aliveness, whereby the cells tingle and vibrate and the mind is clear and sharp. If life is sweetest closest to the bone, as Thoreau proclaims, than of what great benefit is it to neglect the very experiences that cut through the flesh of materialism and leave us raw and naked, exposed in entirety to the skeleton of life? In the dense cities where I frequently live, teeming with hustle and bustle, overpopulation and annihilation, there is minimal trace of the cartilage that formed our bones all those centuries ago. One is not awoken by the call of a rooster; one does not see a farmer ploughing his field by hand; or a baby lamb eating alongside its Mother; or a donkey grazing in a dry riverbed. Our veins are parched from substance and meaning.  We’ve paved over the pulse of existence, impoverished our own sense of being, and solidified our own destiny in a cauldron of illusionary structures of control.

Menicus said:

“There was once a time when the forests of the Niu Mountain were beautiful. But can the mountain any longer be regarded as beautiful, since being situated near the big city, the woodsmen have hewed the trees down? The days and nights gave it rest and the rains and the dew continued to nourish it, and a new life was continually springing up from the soil, but then the cattle and the sheep began to pasture upon it. That is why the Niu Mountain looks so bald, and when people see its baldness, they imagine that there was never any timber on the mountain. Is this the true nature of the mountain? And is there not a heart of love and righteousness in man, too? But how can that nature remain beautiful when it is hacked down everyday as the woodsmen chops down the trees with his axe? To be sure, the nights and days do healing and there is the nourishing air of the early dawn, which tends to keep him sound and normal, but this morning air is thin and is soon destroyed by what he does in the day. With this continuing hacking of the human spirit, the rest and recuperation obtained during the night are not sufficient to maintain its level, and when the nights recuperation does not suffice to maintain its level, then the man degrades himself to a state not far from the beasts. People see that he acts like a beast and imagine that there was never any truer character in him. But is this the true nature of man?

Is this the true nature of man? Is this the true nature of society and human existence? As we reach into the pocket of life searching for the key, the words of the Tao Te Ching can be heard in the passing wind:

Of fame or life,

Which do you hold more dear?

Of life or wealth,

To which would you adhere?

Keep life and lose those other things.

Keep them and lose your life:

Which brings sorrow and pain more near?