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.

 

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