Friday, December 31, 2010

I had been meaning to write this since the 25th, but ended up posting about compassion instead. Why have I been meaning to write it since Christmas? Because it's about the significance of a Christmas gift that was given to me by my younger sister.

It was a frame, and inside the frame were objects that she felt represented me. There were poker cards and chips, as well as a couple pictures... and a Pokemon card and arcade tokens. To understand the significance of this, you must understand the legend behind the name of Lao Tzu.

You see, Lao Tzu is not actually a name. It's more along the lines of a title. Now, there has been debate in the past about what exactly it means (there are those that believe it means "Old Master" rather than the legend), but the legend is that it means "The Old Boy." Whether it actually means this or not, a sort of playful attitude towards life has been an important part of Taoism from the start.

The arcade tokens and Pokemon card were meant to signify that this is something that I still have. This playful attitude so often fades or even disappears as a person leaves their childhood behind. And I don't claim to have kept it all, but I'm glad I held onto as much as I did. My life hasn't been the easiest (I might go into detail in the future, but the difficulties in my life are beyond the scope of this post), but I still have much more than most people do. I retained considerably more than people who have gone through even one of these hardships.

What do I attribute this to? Being autistic. Some of these hardships seem to affect people because of the way society views them. Others affect people because of the importance they place on themselves. For the first: How society views anything has very little effect on me. For the second: As I've said, my mind is a very logical one, and I've been able to set aside the effect of self-importance on those hardships.

Most certainly, a strong spiritual nature (first when I thought I was Christian and later Taoism) has helped, but I doubt I could have retained that spiritual nature if not for my autistic mind.

As I've said before, these hardships have affected me, but not to the point that they seem to affect others. If not for me being autistic, I would never have been able retain my view on the world.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Compassion

I follow Tao Are You on Twitter, and I noticed an interesting post.

I feel, though, that in replying to his post on twitter, I did the thought a disservice. 140 characters isn't really enough to talk about compassion, especially with how poorly built language is to discuss such a topic. We replied to each other a bit on Twitter, but I feel that, to get my point across, I needed to say more on the subject.

Compassion is always within us, and always at the forefront. I take a step forward, and compassion is already there. I take a step backwards, and compassion is waiting for me. However, in our day to day lives, we often hide our own compassion from ourselves, to the point that we require action to bring it out.

Ideally, however, such a barrier needs not be there at all. Compassion should not require any action to bring forth. If we need to reach for compassion, then there is something wrong. Rather, the compassion should be reaching for us. Not just some of the time, but all of the time.

All that is required of you is to allow the compassion that is always with you to express itself.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

There was a post on WrongPlanet about how autistics can accept who we are. This was my response:

Even if you do not hold to Taoism, you can still take wisdom in these words. Much as the Golden Rule still holds for those who are not Christian, these sayings can help you as you go about your life:

There is no greater offense than harboring desires.
There is no greater disaster than discontent.
There is no greater misfortune than wanting more.

Hence, if you are content
You will always have enough.


Others are social. I am not. I don't care to be, so it does not bother me.

Others are rich. I am not. I don't care to be, so it does not bother me.

Others have careers. I do not. I don't care to have one, so it does not bother me.

An interesting thing happened to me the other day: My sister was visiting and she pointed out that the people around her managed to get so interested in a particular thing, such as painting or dancing... and she wished that she was capable of becoming so interested in something. It's extraordinary that people talk about autistics having such trouble going through life, and yet she envies that particular trait. In fact, I have had many people come and tell me that they envy me for a particular autistic trait I have.

Knowing others is to be clever.
Knowing yourself is to be enlightened.
Overcoming others requires force.
Overcoming yourself requires strength.


I know who I am, so I do not reach for things that I cannot grasp. I build my strength, so I might overcome those troubles I wish to overcome.

Therefore, the True Person benefits yet expects no reward,
does the work and moves on.
There is no desire to be considered better than others.


Again: Do not look to others for your own fulfillment. Do not worry what others have. Do you think your cat cares for a career because you or others have one? Does it wish to live to be 100 simply because you might?

It seeks only food, water, and a place to sleep. And the occasional petting.

Both favor and disgrace bring fear.
Great trouble comes from having a body.

What is meant by:
"Both favor and disgrace bring fear"?
Favor leads to a fear of losing it and
disgrace leads to a fear of greater trouble.

What is meant by:
"Great trouble comes from having a body"?
The reason you have trouble is that
you are self-conscious.
No trouble can befall a self-free person.

Therefore, surrender your self-interest.
Love others as much as you love yourself.
Then you can be entrusted with all things under heaven.


I think one of the reasons why we have such trouble is because of experiences in our past. We remember the disgrace, and we fear we are at our limit. Let go of past mistakes, however, and move forward. Make those mistakes again, and don't worry about how people will react to them. If they ridicule you, fine. Do not feel you need their friendship. If they accept you in spite of them, that is fine, too. If they love you for them, then do not worry about trying to please them further.

It is your desires that lead you to ruin. Desires for things you see others have, and desires for things you feel you need. Let go of those desires and you will be at peace with yourself and with others.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Why I am Taoist

So I suppose if I'm going to have topics exclusively about Taoism, I might as well address this one, which has been asked of me a couple of times by people I know that read this blog.

I have met people who can give a dozen reasons why they follow whatever religion they follow. Some relate some past experience, others point to evidence from history or current events. Others say that a particular aspect of that belief appealed to them.

The most extraordinary reasons I've heard tend to come from atheists. It is unfortunate that a belief that is so wonderful (atheism is a wonderful belief, if you read some of the literature dedicated to it) should have people among them that claim that belief solely out of rebellion and stubborness.

So why am I a Taoist? Well, I had an interesting experience that made me become intersted in Taoism, that is for sure. And once I began studying it, I found the beliefs of Taoism appealing to me, certainly. And I cannot deny that certain current events and historical events cause me to see Taoism within them. None of those, however, is why I am a Taoist. In fact, I don't think it's appropriate to call me a Taoist.

I am Taoist.

Taoism is who I am. I could be nothing else. It is as much a part of me as the fact that I am autistic.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

What is Taoism?

It is inevitable that any blog that talks about Taoism must deal with this question at some point.

Is Taoism a religion? Is it a philosophy? Is it something else?

Here is my problem with the arguments against Taoism as a religion. My problem comes when people misunderstand what a religion is and what the Tao is. Most of the arguments I've heard about Taoism not being a religion stem from people clearly raised in a Christian culture. They site the lack of a deity (although this brings me back to the issue with a misunderstanding of the Tao), the lack of a creation story, and things of that nature.

First of all, I will point out that religions are not solely monotheistic or polytheistic. There are a multitude of different theisms that can be present in a religion, and there are certainly religions that can exist with the lack of a god. The Tao is an example of a pantheistic god (though some sects have included incarnations of the Tao and various other god figures), which does not have a true personality or will. It simply... is.

Second comes the issue of a misinterpretation of religion. As I've said before, religions can exist in the absence of a god. As one of my professors explained, a religion is most accurately defined (putting aside cultural bias) as a set of beliefs about how we can best live and the purpose of existence. Taoism has both of these things.

An interesting point is that many schools of Atheistic thought have them as well. If you are an Atheist and have a problem with Atheism being defined as a religion, perhaps you should consider what your motives are for being an Atheist.

So, then, is Taoism a religion and not a philosophy? Well, here is my issue with that: What is a philosophy? A religion, by definition, must ALSO be a philosophy. One of the interesting aspects of Taoism is that you can be, for example, a Christian and still apply Taoist principles to your life (in fact, anyone who has studied Tai Chi Chuan has been introduced to many Taoist principles). But so, too, can a Taoist apply Christian principles to their life.

Moreover, many sects of various religions can be considered to be a combination of a religion and a philosophy that contemplates how that particular religion should define itself. For example, I was raised a Methodist, which is Christianity with a Wesleyan philosophy of Christianity.

The main advantage Taoism (though this also applies to Confucianism and Buddhism) has, as a philosophy, is that its greatest thinkers have not claimed a direct line to the Tao. Rather, they present arguments for why a certain action or view in a particular situation is beneficial. The laws do not come from a god figure, but rather from turning the issue over and considering the best path.

So what is Taoism? Is it religion? Is it philosophy?

Taoism is highly individualized. The way you go about applying Taoist principles to your life will, without a doubt, be different from the way I apply Taoist principles to my life. I am a religious non-denominational Taoist, but that doesn't mean that I think you must have Taoism as your religion in order to be Taoist.

Edit: Allow me to restate the point I had here. Taoism is not limited by restrictions or limitations of people and definitions because the Tao is not restricted or limited by people and definitions. Instead of arguing about whether Taoism is a religion or a philosophy or whatever, perhaps it would be best to simply apply the wisdom of it to your life (or not, as your choice may be).

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Rage

I have been known to let myself fall into anger in my time, but I see it so much in the autistic community, and I had an experience with it recently, so I feel I should write something about it.

Many autistics seem to be full of rage, they rage at Autism Speaks, they rage at Jim Carrey, they rage at FAAAS, but mostly, they just rage. I'd like to make two points about rage. The first is from an episode of How I Met Your Mother, a show of which I am a major fan. This episode (and others like it) is why.

Ted goes to confront Stella, the woman that left him at the altar:



(Second Edit: I am keeping the video up in case I can get it working again, but until then, you can download the clip.)

It's this wisdom that drew me to the show, and this wisdom that keeps me watching, day after day.

Every autistic reading this knows that we can do so much. We can change so many lives, if those with lives we could change would just let us. And yet we are dismissed and ostracized. But why should this make us angry? Whatever we must endure because of this discrimination, these people will suffer so much more. Even if we couldn't change their lives, the discrimination alone is so much worse for them than anything that they could do to us. Weep for them, they know not the lives they could have had.

The other point I'd like to make is anger as an excuse. My sister and I were visiting our mother recently, and she had been reading a book, Nickel and Dimed. She bemoaned her lot in life and her inability to get by. I did not handle the situation as well I could have (I upset her greatly), but I pointed out (with very little tact, so I am not unclear on that point) that I had worked for less than she makes normally, with higher rent, and I had managed to save quite a bit of money. An interesting point to make is that the reason she was visiting my mother is that she was storing boxes of stuff at my mother's apartment, things that she did not need and sometimes went unused for long periods.

I wrote earlier about the perfect job for autistics. We may not be able to make it by in a normal job environment, but that does not mean we cannot make money or contribute meaningfully to society.

That job I mentioned earlier ended rather abruptly. I did not catch on to one of those unwritten, unspoken rules (the kind that are illegal but exist anyway). And yet, still, I shouldn't be angry at them. I should not have been in that job in the first place. It was something for a neurotypical. I am destined for something else, and I will do what I am meant to do.

You should not be angry at them for their discrimination. Instead, realize that you should work towards something else, something you are meant to do.

Let go of your anger, and you may see where you truly belong.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Conformity

I was in a rather interesting discussion with a friend of mine online. I ended up looking for a quote in the Tao Te Ching. I didn't find the quote I was looking for, but I did find one that made me think of autism.

People of the Tao
conform to the Tao.
People of Virtue
conform to Virtue.
People who lose the way
conform to the loss.
Those who conform to the Tao
are welcomed into the Tao.
Those who conform to Virtue
are welcomed into Virtue.
Those who conform to the loss
are welcomed into the loss.


We live a particular life, and we become certain that that particular way of living is the only way that a person could possibly live and be happy - even if we aren't happy ourselves.

One of the reasons why there are neurotypicals fighting for a "cure" is because they're neurotypical. They're obsessed with social ritual and being around people and all the things that go with being a neurotypical. They can't possibly imagine that there are people that could live a life other than theirs and be happy. Moreover, they think that theirs is the only way to make friends.

I have met a number of people that are autistic, or at least have autistic traits. I certainly like being around them much more than those that are neurotypical. Many people say that it is difficult for autistics to connect with people normally, but that is not true. It is difficult for autistics to connect with neurotypicals normally. With autistics, we do just fine. The same is true for neurotypicals, though. Neurotypicals have trouble connecting with autistics. Is there something wrong with neurotypicals because they cannot connect to autistics?

I am a certain way, and that's the way I am. Not you. I doubt I could be happy being you. You may be able to be happy being you, I do not know. I do know, however, that your path is different than mine. Right or wrong, it is your path to follow.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My mind to your mind

I was discussing a number of things with an online acquaintance the other day, and the subject became one about the fact that I am autistic. As I've already mentioned before, I take great pride in being autistic. It allows me to discern patterns quite well, my mind is more logical, and even what is considered the primary problem autistics have (social ineptitude), I consider a blessing.

There is, however, one thing that I feel I am missing out on: Visualization. According to Temple Grandin, people have three different ways of thinking. I am a pattern-based thinker, but my online acquaintance is exceptional in the realm of visual thinking.

As the discussion went on, I was reminded of an old episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation (starting at about 6:15 in the video).

The way we think, as well as other aspects, cause each of us to see the world differently. If you saw the world as I do, but with your experience in your method of thought, you would likely not be able to make heads or tails of what you saw. There are many reasons for this: Autism, pattern-based thinking, Taoism, the way I was raised, and the combination of these things (as well as many other things that each have a small say in the way I see the world).

When you think of the sages, do you think any of them see or saw the world in any way similar to the way you see it? Jesus, Moses, and Mohammed. Confucius, Lao Tzu, and Siddhartha Gautama. The great sages of the West and the great sages of the East. Yet all of them saw the world differently than we did. Can we truly understand their words without also understanding their minds?

The way I see the world is very different than the way you see it, and that's a good thing.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

We often forget that people are human.

Think of a field that you are knowledgeable in. It could be anything, really. Now consider this: Do you know everything in that field?

I was discussing the Aspie Quiz a while back, and one of the people I was discussing it with dismissed it because of the fact that they had been tested for a number of things (including OCD and ADD), and the doctor doing the testing would know if they were autistic, not some quiz online. It actually reminded me of something an autistic had mentioned on Wrong Planet. He said that his doctor dismissed autism because of the fact that he was well-spoken.

Of course not all doctors are going to assume that sort of thing, but misconceptions about many things abound and it is a fallacy to believe something is true merely because a figure in authority says it. While doctors are more likely to be right in their particular specialty, they are not necessarily always right. In many fields (including medicine and psychology), students are taught to believe certain things to be absolutely true and without question. It is heresy to to question this. In addition to this, there is the possibility of remembering something wrong or just plain ignorance of something (such as a particular study or experience working differently for them than the average).

This same problem can be applied to religion, as well. Sages are wise, but not all-knowing. In many cases, it is better to listen to the advice of the sages. Sages are sages because they're wiser than you, and thus more likely to be correct. If you were wise like a sage, you would be a sage as well (and thus have no use for the title). However, I would suggest that you always keep in mind that things are not true because people say they are true. Things are true because they are true. It is really that simple (and yet oh so complex).

It is never a good idea to assume things based on the source. If action is required without the ability to properly know something, then it would probably be best to act as if the source is right. However, if given the opportunity to question the source's knowledge, I would suggest that you do it. This is why second opinions exist, after all.

Friday, September 10, 2010

I had an interesting conversation a few weeks ago. I have trouble killing insects, even by accident. This is not an issue for most people, but it is a major one for me. One person in that discussion suggested I get help, which confuses me. Why is compassion for other beings a bad thing? Shouldn't not having compassion be considered unhealthy? His response to this was that the majority of people don't have a problem with it. Majority is healthy, minority is unhealthy.

Now, if you don't have a problem with killing insects, that's fine. I don't think that you need to have compassion for insects to be a good person, but having compassion for them shouldn't be considered unhealthy.

One of the interesting aspects of being autistic is how logically my mind works, so I naturally have trouble when people use logical fallacies, such as his: Argumentum ad populum, or appealing to the majority.

What is all this doing in a blog about Taoism and autism? Well, because autistics are weird (very different from the majority), and thus are unhealthy. Instead of accepting the difference and displaying some humility of belief, many neurotypicals (and undiagnosed autistics) assume that autistics are unhealthy mentally. Naturally, a lot of this comes from misunderstanding autism as a whole, but much of it also comes from that logical fallacy.

On the Taoist side of things: Many of my individual beliefs are very bizarre to people. Some of those are from the Taoist beliefs. In a given situation, I am more likely to act differently than the average person. I am more likely to do what they would consider wrong. Because these are commonly held beliefs (and are featured often in popular media to be the correct belief), I can be labelled as a bad person. I have always strived to do what I believe is right, though. Just because most people think it's wrong, that doesn't make it wrong.

I can see myself making more posts about logical fallacies in the future. Many relate to autism, autism activism, and Taoism.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A couple weeks ago, I was on one of the forums I frequent, and someone on there had a problem with their personal life. This person has difficulty making friends and felt bad about that; as if people not liking them made them wrong, somehow. As if having many friends would make this person a good person.

It is not enough to be liked by everyone. One must be liked by the good, and hated by the bad.
~Confucius

Yes, I know it's Confucius in a Taoist blog, but Confucius was quite a wise man, and this quote most certainly holds considerable wisdom.

But what makes a bad person in this regard? Well, that's more of a difficult matter when it comes down to it. Perhaps it would be more productive to consider what we want ourselves to be like, and then try and be liked by those we wish to be like and disliked by those we do not want to be like. Who do I seek to emulate? I turn once again to what is probably my favorite quote from the Tao Te Ching:

A truly good person functions without ulterior motive.
A moralist acts out of private desires.
A ritualist acts and, when no one responds,
rolls up a sleeve and marches.

When we lose the Tao, we turn to Virtue.
When we lose Virtue, we turn to kindness.
When we lose kindness, we turn to morality.
When we lose morality, we turn to ritual.

Ritual is the mere husk of good faith and loyalty
and the beginning of disorder.


I seek to be a truly good person, and so I wish to be disliked by ritualists, those that place emphasis on things such as proper responses and greetings, and things of that nature that I group as "social ritual". I do wish to be liked by those who have no need of such things, but they seem to be fairly rare, and so I am more often disliked than liked.

Autistics tend to have difficulty making friends because of our difficulty with social ritual. This is not necessarily a bad thing. If you believe that social ritual is a good thing, then I suppose it would be. As for me, I do not. I believe myself to be a fairly good person (not a truly good person yet, but I am trying). Lacking ability with social ritual means that those that want to be my friends do so because of who I am, not how well I follow ritual.

If you feel upset because people don't like you, look inside yourself. Weigh your actions against what you believe to be right. If you find that your actions have strayed too far from what you believe is right, change them. However, if you find that your actions are correct according to you, then do not worry that you do not make friends. To make people your friends, who do not care about you as a good person, you would have to lower yourself.

It is better to be good and hated by the world, than to be bad and loved by it. Rejoice that those who are bad dislike you; it means that you are good.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

What Religion Must Be

It has been more than half a year since I have last posted a blog. This is partially due to computer issues and partially due to personal issues. No matter the cause, however, I am ultimately to blame. There is always a way around these issues that I could have found, but I did not.

As I sit here, it is nearly 6 AM and I have not slept yet. I spent 12 hours asleep a couple of nights ago and now I cannot go to sleep at my usual time. Still, I felt that I should post one of the many things that I have thought about in the past seven months.

I began watching Through the Wormhole, a series that discusses many of the rather extraordinary questions about the universe. The first episode was a very interesting look at the possibility of the existence of a creator. It dispelled some common myths (such as the idea that science disproves religion), but there was also the issue of ignorance in religion. Dr. Garrett Lisi is a brilliant man when it comes to the realm of physics, but I feel that he is lacking in an understanding of the true diversity of religion. He explains that he does not believe that a creator being, which he believes must be infinitely complex, could create something as infinitely simple as his theory of the universe.

I have met people who believe that, if a creator being exists, then there must be some clue that has been given, and as such, there must be some sort of belief that is correct, but since all religion is an organized institution and we are all equal in the eyes of God, then no religion could be correct and thus there can be no God. Or else that God could not possibly care about taking attendance, and thus any belief that requires you to attend some sort of proof of your faith must be false. As all religions require this, no religion is correct.

There is also the famous (or perhaps infamous) argument that, if there is a being of perfect goodness and absolute power, then why is there evil?

I suppose I should address these misconceptions in the order given. First would be the idea that God must be infinitely complex. A counter to the idea that God needs to be infinitely complex would be the Theravada Buddhist belief that whether or not gods exist is of no concern to the individual. There are also a number of beliefs that state that God or gods were created alongside the universe or after the universe (or that our ancestors are the powerful beings in the heavens). These beliefs also rarely attribute infinite complexity to God or the gods. It has always been my belief that the Tao is not complex at all, but rather infinitely simple. This is reflected in much Taoist writing.

Second would be the issue of organized religion. I knew someone once who was a member of a rather interesting religion: Discordianism. Discordianism, as the name would suggest, is not an organized religion. It is, in fact, a disorganized religion. I will not go into the details here, but I would highly recommend that anyone who is able read a copy of the Principia Discordia, which is one of the holy books of Discordianism. In addition to Discordianism, there are a number of religions that view a personal connection to God or enlightenment as being much more important that anything that anyone else could say. I myself am a non-denominational Taoist, which means that I don't follow the beliefs of any Taoist sect. My belief is my own, and thus my religion is not an organized one. There is no requirement that you join a denomination to be religious.

The last one is the easiest: Who says God is perfectly good? Who says God is perfectly powerful? Who decides what is good? The Tao is everything, and so would be perfectly powerful, but it does not alter the course of history. Nor is it perfectly good. As everything, it must also be evil as well. Aside from that, few religions attribute absolute power to their God or gods (assuming they have any at all). The Norse even believe that the gods are mortal beings. There are still many people who hold to the Norse faith, and it is a wonderful faith. Those that have not studied it would likely not understand. Lastly is the issue of good itself. What is good? Are you fit to decide this? We cannot predict how our actions will affect the future (as I have already mentioned), nor can we know if that end is truly a good end or not. What we see as right and wrong could very well be incorrect.

The first two are addressed in the first chapter of the Hua Hu Ching:

My teachings are simple; if you try to make a religion or science of them, they will elude you. Profound yet plain, they contain the entire truth of the universe.


The last one (as well as the first again) is addressed in the Tao Te Ching:

Tao that can be called Tao is not true Tao, the Name that can be named is not the true Name.


I suppose that I must also address here the belief that evolution disproves religion, or even creationism. I have looked at it from many angles, and creationism seems to be incompatible with Taoist teachings and beliefs, but I will address it here anyway: The assumption that evolutionists have in mind when they make this argument is that God cannot manipulate the path of evolution in such a way that every species (including the first living beings from organic molecules) that comes into being is a result of His guidance.

I have nothing against Atheism as a belief system. Please understand, however, that it is a belief, and not an absolute fact. And please, if you are going to talk about religion, at least understand its diversity and the fact that there is no one way that religion must be.

I sit here at 7 AM, and I am glad to once again be writing in The Tao of Autism. I hope to have another post next week, perhaps pertaining to autism in some way.

 

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