Tuesday, July 03, 2007

I am a Taoist

At heart I am a Taoist. I’ve known this since high school. Even as I tried to be Zen Buddhist I knew it was the Taoism behind it that really called to me. Of all the books I have written, and I have written too many, “The Wisdom of Solomon” is my favorite. It is my attempt to rewrite the Book of Ecclesiastes in Taoist terms as if King Solomon was a Hebrew Lao Tzu, which, I fantasize, he was.

There is madness to Taoism, especially the churchy and jade–eating mystical aspects of it, but the works of Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu are among the most powerful revelations humanity has ever known. If I could take only one book with me to a desert island it would be “Surviving Alone on a Desert Island for Dummies,” but if I could take a second book it would be the Tao te Ching. If I could take a third it would be the Inner Chapters of Chuang Tzu.

What I admire about Taoism is its simplicity. Where some religions are simplistic, this one is simply elegant. Life is not complicated but it is complex. Taoism speaks to the complexity without falling into the trap of making things complicated. Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism love to complicate things: levels of consciousness, angels, demons, heavens, hells, saved, damned, chosen, rejected, miracles, etc. This is to say nothing of the rules. Religions love rules because it is the only way they can justify having rulers. You don’t need rabbis if you don’t follow rabbinic laws.

In the Gospel According to Matthew Jesus says, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30) yet Christianity in all its thousands of forms is anything but easy and light. At least Jesus had the good sense to challenge the heavy burden of the Judaism of his day. And when you remember that the word “yoke” comes from “yoga” it is even clearer what Jesus is saying. The Way is not complicated. It is doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with your God (Micah 6:8).

I am not calling for a new prophet to make Judaism easy and light. Jews seems to love things the way they are, hard and heavy. That way they have an excuse for not following it seriously. I am simply saying that true sages like Jesus and Lao Tzu just can’t take complicated systems of religion seriously. Neither can I.

I get up in the morning and I walk. Then I sit and breathe. Then I write. After a while I get tired and go out. I browse the bookstores, teach my classes, and do my best to minimize the damage I cause. Then I come home, yell with and sometimes at Lou Dobbs and Chris Matthews, read some more and go to sleep. Somewhere in there I talk with people I love, and eat, often more than I should. Nothing complicated about what I do, though it takes a great and divine complexity in order to do it.

Is what I do Jewish? Can it be labeled? Does it matter? Not to me.

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