Hi, I'm Matt, and this is where my world meets the internet, in real time. I'm an American teaching English at a middle school in South Korea. I'm here with my fiancee; it's our third year here. This is a place for things I find interesting, absurd, funny, outrageous and awesome. I am a wannabe farmer, world traveler, appreciator of photography, and I follow American politics closely. Follow along as I also contribute my thoughts on Taoism for everyday life, inspired from the daily meditations of 365 Tao, by Deng Ming Dao.
There are still places where you can walk and feel a profound gloom. Such is the case with old battlefields. People died there. The force of their determination still resonates.
You can find such places in every country. Often no one builds anything there, even when land is dear. We say that we do not want to forget our dead. We say that there should be a memorial. Others say that the disturbance there is so great that the living cannot abide with the dead.
History is essential to our understanding of the present. Unless we are conscious of the way in which we came to this point in time as a people, then we shall never fully be able to plan the present and the future. We need to know what roots are still alive. We need to know how things came to be so that we can project from here. We also need to know the failures of the past so that we can avoid repeating them.
History is not always glorious. Sometimes our history is melancholy. We must accept that. This life is terrible and people do terrible things to each other. If we are to live for the sake of the good and strong, then we should have as much of a background as possible.
Just some quotes to go with today’s beautiful Tao.
“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. “George Santayana
“The very ink with which history is written is merely fluid prejudice.”Mark Twain
“It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning. “Henry Ford.
Maybe we could all benefit from taking a look back and remembering how we got here.
Tonight is the harvest moon. The queen of night is at her most perfect roundness, closer to us than at any other time of the year. She glows silver in an indigo sky.
People celebrate this night for many reasons. For some, it is the time to enjoy the view of the moon, and they toast it with sweets, wine, and tea. For others, it is a time of relaxation and thanksgiving for the harvest.
The Moon Festival is a woman’s festival, their time to worship. The harvest moon symbolizes the ascendancy of cool darkness over the bright heat of summer. This reminds us of equality in the cosmos: light and dark, male and female, heat and frost, hard and soft — all these things are part of an overall equilibrium.
If you are a woman, then tonight is your night for worship and celebration. If you are a man, then it is a night to step aside and give your wives, mothers, and sisters their privacy. But for all, we can be thankful for the riches of autumn and begin our preparations for the coming frost.
I don’t like the sound of the words “coming frost”, but it’s true. The nights are growing cooler and cooler rapidly. However, if tonight is a ladies night for celebration, let me step aside and toast it to the queen in my life. Tonight is to celebrate bountiful harvest of our love. Love you, Dani. <3
There was once an eccentric calligrapher who said, “When the ordinary person likes my work, I shudder. If they find me obscure, then I am delighted.”
Writing about Tao are not always easy to understand. Many times in the past, even monks in long training were still helpless to properly interpret the scriptures. Some have therefore accused followers of Tao of being coldly elitist. In fact, those who write about Tao are obscure only because they cherish Tao so much. They only want knowledge of Tao to go to those who will appreciate it. They do not want to pollute Tao by exposing it to the idly curious. If everyone in the world could appreciate Tao, then the knowledge of Tao would be given freely.
Actually the masters have already babbled away all the secrets. In their compassionate determination to pass on their insights, they have worn themselves out trying to get their messages across to us. The secrets of life are already written repeatedly in all the holy books. They are only secrets because we do not take the time to truly read.
We stand alone in this life. No one lives our life for us. Neither drug nor sorcery can remove us, even for a moment, from our own life. We can deny it, but it is useless: We are here alone, to engage every precious moment according to our wills.
The precedents of the ancients may be helpful, but in the end they are only references. The thought of those who will follow after us is likewise merely a consideration. What matters is being, pure being. Accept who you are. Be who you are.
If there are gods in the heavens, maybe they know the future. As a human being, I can only say that the future is yet to be made. Let us go forth and make it, but let us make it as beautifully as we can. The degree of elegance is determined by our will and the perfection of our own personalities. Therefore, do not sigh over misfortune or adversity. Whether you are happy or sad is entirely up to you.
I’m diggin’ this Tao today. “Whether you are happy or sad is entirely up to you.” That’s a powerful attitude right there. My friends and I, when we were hiking together along the Appalachian Trail, had a similar outlook: The Power of Positive Thinking. No matter how bad a day was, you were tired and sore and hungry and wet, the PPT could get you through it. Once, my friend RLB (trail name), predicted on a rainy, hilly, drab day 3 things: there would be dry firewood in the shelter waiting for us; there would only be us (so we didn’t have to pitch a tent in the rain); and we would drink a beer somewhere between here and the end of the day. Well, two out of three isn’t bad, and imagine our surprise as we found an empty shelter and dry firewood waiting for us on the rainiest of days. It didn’t matter anyways though, it was the PPT that got us through that day.
Also, DMD says the future is certainly unknown to us, but it will be “determined by our will and the perfection of our own personalities.” How about that? The future will be made by us. It’s going to be as beautiful as we can make ourselves to be. Be who you are, love who you are, because you’re you and you are a great opportunity. Be happy.
Deep in meditation, it is possible to become aware of the life force itself. You can see it if you learn how to look within. To describe it as electricity, or power, or light, or consciousness is all somewhat correct. But such descriptions are inadequate. You have to see it for yourself. You have to feel it for yourself. You have to know it for yourself.
To be in its presence is like being in front of something primeval, basic, mysterious, shamanistic, and profound. To be in its presence makes all references mute and all senses slack, leaving only deep awe. One is drawn to it in utter fascination. It is the mighty flame to our mothlike consciousness.
This column of energy that coils around itself holds all the stages of our growth. It is our soul; it is the force that animates us and gives us awareness. If you want to engage your life completely, it is essential for you to come to terms with this inner power. Once you harmonize with it you can blend with the dynamics of being human.
In the legends there is a story of the butterfly lovers. They loved each other so much that even in death, their hearts were fixed faithfully upon one another. In honor of their devotion to each other, the gods changed them into butterflies and let them come back together in reincarnation after reincarnation.
Would that all of us could manifest such determination and faith to what we loved!
I am so lucky to have that determination and faith. I love you, Dani. <3
One may be quite far along on the path, but if one meets a beginner who sincerely seeks guidance, then one should help without reservation. If such a beginner were to come to you, what would you say? This is what I said to someone today:
“The time of beginning is one of the most precious times of all. It can be very exciting and full of wonderful growth. The first thing to do is to make up your mind that you are going to go the distance.
“When I first began, I made a lifelong commitment. I determined that I would learn from my teacher for at least seven years. Now, it has been much longer than that, but the essential element is still the same: commitment.
“But commitment needs something else in order to be perpetuated. It needs discipline. This is the perseverance to keep on when things are tough. Adversity is life’s way of testing and perfecting a person. Without that, we would never develop character.
“Rice suffers when it is milled. Jade must suffer when it is polished. But what emerges is something special. If you want to be special too, they you have to be able to stick to things even when they are difficult.”
Commitment and discipline — these are two of the most precious words for those who would seek Tao.
Learning is a passion shared by many of us. There is a great allure to education and a fascination with the accomplishments of civilization. We go to libraries and museums. We go to exhibits showing the diggings from royal tombs. We are enchanted with new inventions. And yet, if we look out our windows and see a tree in its perfection, or gaze into a tide pool, or watch a cat as it strolls its territory, or see the flash of a blue jay, we can see another order of beauty and intelligence in this life.
The works of humanity cannot compare to the works of nature. The works of civilization lack the balance and refinement of nature. Too many times, our accomplishments are tainted by impure motives: profit, hardship, desire for fame, simple greed. We achieve, but we cannot foresee the results because we are unable to place our actions into a greater context.
Nature is a conglomeration of contending forces, of tooth and claw, venom and perfume, mud and excrement, eggs and bones, lightning and lava. It seems chaotic. It seems terrible. And yet, for all its unfathomable workings, it far surpasses the business of our society.
Think about what you do. How much of it can compare to the perfection of nature?
The beauty and complexity of nature is amazing, no doubt. From the billions (and billions) of stars in the sky to the way plants harvest energy from the sun, the sheer amount of simultaneous size and detail are overwhelming. I don’t think our accomplishments are always “tainted by improper motives”, but I do think they pale in comparison to those of nature. So often we are pleased with ourselves for discovering something new, only to realize it’s been there, among us and the stars, for billions of years already; the harmony of it’s existence has been intricately woven into the universe for eons.
Just recently they announced they may have found sub-atomic particles traveling at speeds greater than the speed of light at CERN, the famous particle research facility. How great are we in our accomplishments compared to the intricate perfection of nature? We are just scratching the surface to a new set of discoveries that are really so basic in the scale of nature and the universe.
As I sit here at my desk, with a perfect fall breeze blowing through the window, I stand confirmed. Nature, in all its beauty, cannot, it seems, be perfected.
Everyone has their own style in life. The old have perspective. The young have vigor. We can learn from each other, but we cannot have what the other generations possess. We are each shaped by our generations, and to transcend the limitations of our time is a rare occurrence indeed.
Here I am again, coming back to Tao. Life’s always a little busy and I just haven’t been blogging like I used to. But I’m back again, trying again. And as I come back to this place, I’ve found that I hit my one year Tao-versary. Here is my post from last year, when I was merely a week into my journey to understanding Tao. It’s a great post to come back to. I’ve added a little extra at the bottom for this year’s take.
The earth is overrun by investigators and engineers. The wilderness is made vulgar with the noise of tourists. We don’t need their thermometers and saws. We don’t need bridges and monuments. In the context of Tao, this is to violate the earth with human ambition and to crawl over the landscape like flies over fresh fruit. Instead we should simply walk through this mysterious world without being a burden to it.
In the modern day, it’s hard to imagine an unspoiled nature. It’s even harder to imagine not spoiling it anymore. It happens every day in every country all over Earth as we pollute, clear cut, dirty, and tamper with the environment constantly. When we do go out to enjoy it, however, we can do our best to try not to tamper even more with our minds. Don’t over analyze, don’t dissect, don’t interfere. Just enjoy the moment, in the moment.
Life throws a lot at you. It’s not easy to Go With the Flow. The stresses of relationships, family dynamics, work, hobbies, and everything else have made us careful planners. Time management, organization, scheduling, categorizing; these things were taught to us to have a more orderly life. Noninterference runs counter to that. It states that we should not analyze and compartmentalize. Just look around you and “walk through this mysterious world without being a burden to it”. Do not interfere with The Way Things Are. Especially in nature.
We humans have this innate feeling to live in the moment. To be spontaneous. Sometimes it only comes out once in awhile, but it’s there. Nature, all the life around us, shares this feeling. The world around us is much better at this than we are. Nature moves forward, slowly, without intent. It doesn’t think, it doesn’t plan; it just is. It follows Tao. If only we could unlearn some things, we could find our way along this simple path as well.
This is the perfect Tao to come back to today. I am sitting here with a million things on my mind, struggling to find balance and calmness. It’s still been less than a week since we made it back to Korea, and with a 13 hour time difference from Maine, there certainly is a physical contribution to my mental fuzziness. But mostly it’s coming from all this change. I find myself in another moment of Transition which, funny enough, was my Trail Name on the Appalachian Trail. I got that name because of where I was in life, having recently been laid off, looking for a new direction. Now it’s a much more positive situation: post-wedding.
The wedding was amazing, all that we ever hoped to have, and wedded life is bliss. We’ve come back to Korea with an enormous weight lifted from our shoulders: we pulled it off. Our 19-month engagement, especially in our last few months, dominated our lives with planning. I didn’t mind it of course, but only now when I look back do I realize how much effort we put in. Now we find ourselves with more free time, a better daily routine, and the whole rest of our lives to look forward to. No more deadlines.
It’s this change in perspective from the planning-every-aspect-of-a-single-afternoon view, to the broad, open future that has my head spinning right now. Last night was our monthly test night at Taekwondo; I had to re-memorize two pum-sae’s; I have this new beer brewing hobby, and I’m really getting into it, but man, there is so much to learn; we’re applying for new jobs in Korea next year at a university, and that’s a lot to think about; we’re planning future vacations all over the world, what a treat to be able to do; we’re establishing new routines at home; and I need to keep on top of lesson planning! Life is great and I’m so lucky, but right now my mind is running on so many levels!
This is a time to calm the Dialogue in my mind, and take a moment to be with Tao. A moment to be thankful, happy, and at peace. I hope you, too, can find that moment today.
Take this as an introduction to Taoism. These three tenets will lay a plan for beginners and serve as a daily affirmation to those experienced with Tao. These three simple things: essence, breath, and spirit, are all you need to focus on, yet they encompass everything in your life.
Knowledge, Love, Benevolence; these are some of the few precious things that can’t be bought or sold. The more you give, the more you receive. If you try to hoard them, they become stale like old bread, and about as valuable. Be Open. Your openness to others and life around you brightens the world.
Okay, enough philosophy. Be open to others and you’ll get back ten times as much as you give. Truly. What’s to fear from being open? Share yourself and you’ll learn more than you ever imagined.
A pillar of Taoism and all related philosophies, Meditation is central to your connection to Tao and your Self. Although I struggle to do it often enough, I truly feel the benefits of meditation. Both immediately and long term, Meditation can offer you calm, serenity, and a wider frame of mind. You will be happier, you will be slower to anger and judgement, and you will be more open and understanding. I strongly urge you to try it if you aren’t doing so now. Starting for just 10 or 15 minutes will improve your life greatly, I guarantee it.