Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Interconnectedness of Things

I've started teaching Taoism in my Religion 101 class. Founded by Lao Tzu in the 6th century BCE, it has a very esoteric understanding of reality. The word "Tao" means "way" or "path" and serves as a metaphor for the essence of life. The Yin/Yang above is the main symbol of Taoism. There are no sharp divisions in the yin/yang. Because the dark part includes some of the light and vice versa, it shows the interconnectedness of reality.

There is a Tao of the universe that serves as an underlying ordering and creative principle. Human beings also have a Tao within. Taoism attempts to bring our individual Tao's into alignment with the universal Tao.

The chief metaphor for the Tao is water. Water is gentle, yet powerful; it is soft, yet will eventually break down the hardest of stones. Here is a selection from Chapter 78 of the main scripture of Taoism, the Tao Te Ching (The Way and its Power/Virtue).

Nothing in the world
is as soft and yielding as water:
yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible,
nothing can surpass it.

The soft overcomes the hard:
the gentle overcomes the rigid.
Everyone knows this is true,
but few can put it into practice.

Water also connects us to the world around us and to each other. A friend who swims in Long Island Sound regularly told me that, when he is swimming, he feels connected to all the oceans on earth.

Taoism asserts the interconnectedness of all things in the universe. I usually feel this connectedness while in a place of natural beauty. However, once we see the world through the lens of interconnectedness, every thing has value and purpose. And we are part of this value and purpose.

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