[lit-ideas] Re: that and this

  • From: Adriano Palma <Palma@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 3 Mar 2015 05:25:22 +0000

The dao will get to you

From: lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On 
Behalf Of Omar Kusturica
Sent: 03 March 2015 02:47
To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: that and this

I give up on Thaoism then.


On Tue, Mar 3, 2015 at 1:19 AM, John McCreery 
<john.mccreery@xxxxxxxxx<mailto:john.mccreery@xxxxxxxxx>> wrote:
The most recent edition of the Taoist Canon is several thousand pages long, and 
filled with prayers, incantations, and instructions for elaborate rituals to 
accompany them.

That said, if by "Taoism" you mean only the texts ascribed Lao-tzu and the 
Chuang-tzu, it might be worth considering the line from the former that reads, 
"To the Tao we are straw dogs,"
a statement usually interpreted as conveying the utter indifference of the 
universe to our desires.

P.S. "Straw dogs" refers to images of dogs burned in ceremonies, in which they 
themselves have no say whatsoever.

P.P.S. Yes, there are contradictions between austere advice to adapt oneself to 
an indifferent universe and producing the materials that now fill the Taoist 
Canon. But if the primordial texts are right, the Tao doesn't care.

P.P.P.S. Should anyone be interested in exploring this topic more deeply, I 
highly recommend Francois Jullien (1999) The Propensity of Things: Toward a 
History of Efficacy in China [translated from the French original Pour une 
histoire de l'efficacité en Chine, 1992.

Imagine, not that we are chessmen, who at least retain a distinctive character 
and may win or lose in combat with those of different character but instead Go 
stones, featureless, anonymous, restricted to the point on the board where a 
player puts us, our fate determined by nothing we do but instead dependent 
entirely on our position in the pattern of the game.

Consider the implications of this view for strategy, politics, poetry, art.


Sent from my iPad

On 2015/03/02, at 22:07, Omar Kusturica 
<omarkusto@xxxxxxxxx<mailto:omarkusto@xxxxxxxxx>> wrote:
I am thinking that Taoism would be the right religion for Mike and me - there 
is a couple of texts to read which aren't too long and you have done with your 
catechism. Also, there isn't really much in the way of prayer, as far as I am 


On Mon, Mar 2, 2015 at 5:44 AM, John McCreery 
<john.mccreery@xxxxxxxxx<mailto:john.mccreery@xxxxxxxxx>> wrote:
Bravo! Bravissimo! We have a sage among us.


On Mon, Mar 2, 2015 at 1:11 PM, Mike Geary 
<jejunejesuit.geary2@xxxxxxxxx<mailto:jejunejesuit.geary2@xxxxxxxxx>> wrote:
Lawrence writes: "I suspect Mike Geary has read more of Emerson than I have – 
my loss."

I doubt it.  I tend not to read much literary criticism and commentary since 
they often contradict my prejudices and I have neither the interest nor the 
energy to go read the actual works -- for what? just to mount a defense of my 
prejudices?  They don't need any defense, they're prejudices for Christsake. 
Philosophy's not so too awfully different.  Except for logic, philosophy seems 
to be the perfect field of study for me.  Since the beginning of time and 
creativity, no one has ever put forward a philosophy that was falsifiable (as 
they love to say in the sciences).  In short, whatever I assert is undeniably 
assertable, and if assertable then, real in the assertion.  Just as one of Saul 
Bellows' characters said (in Gravity's Rainbow ?) when challenged to give a 
rhyme for "month" responded with:  "Onth.  Onth rhymes with month."  There's no 
such word, they said.  "Ah, but you're wrong," Bellows' man bellowed. "In the 
assertion: onth rhymes with "month", onth is the subject of the sentence, and 
as we all know, the subject of a sentence is a noun and all nouns are words, 
ergo,  "onth" is a word and it rhymes with month.  Now that's my kind of 
philosophy.  But that's Literature, not Philosophy you object.  Alas, you're so 
literal.  Philosophy is just plotless literature.  Both are about ignorance and 
wonder, the only difference between Literature and Philosophy is that 
Literature has a lot more wiggle room.  Both are trying to find out what the 
hell's going on with us.  Now it's been my experience that you can usually 
avoid being nailed down a lot easier when arguing Lit Crit than arguing 
philosophy because some philosophers seem to actually be trying to make sense 
of what they're saying.  There are no such straight- jackets in literature.  An 
example from philosophy:  pick out the most cogent of the following:  (1) I 
think ...in a manner of speaking.  (2) I think I am therefore I think .  (3)  I 
think I think I am.  (4) I think I am, therefore I think I am.  (5)  I think I 
am not therefore I am.  (6)  I am therefore I think I am.  (7)  I think not, 
therefore...   (8)  I am I before I am knowing I think.   (9)  I am thinking 
that I am thinking that I think.  Etc., etc., etc.

I've always like Literature and Philosophy because both have always seemed so 
wondrously frivolous and unfalsifiable and yet so urgently near to my own 
existence.  Although ideas are often argued with passion, none of it matters 
--- except in the challenge to one's own little cosmos. Existence doesn't seem 
to give a shit what we think.   Often I wish I were far, far more read into 
philosophy, but I know I'll never be .  Occasionally I'll stick my toes into 
some inviting waters and thrill to the confusion and challenge of it.  To me 
it's fun, even when most of the arguments leave me out in left field.  Life is 
fun.  I would never have believed that being 71 can be so damn much fun.  Let 
me be hopelessly, totally, completely wrong, I don't care.  I'm jubilant in my 
error.   All I want is to get as many Existence kisses as I can before I go 
where no thinking goes...therefore ...

John McCreery
The Word Works, Ltd., Yokohama, JAPAN
Tel. +81-45-314-9324<tel:%2B81-45-314-9324>

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