I gave a 14min talk at a gathering of fellow Harvard alumni in Cambridge in June 2013. Hope you find it useful. (more…)
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A couple of days ago I went to the Albert Cuyp street market in Amsterdam. They have a great selection of fresh produce, including all kinds of tropical fruits that have no business being in northern Europe. But there they were, so I got a bunch of mangoes and pineapples for less than a song.
I peeled and chopped up both fruits and took my time to thoroughly appreciate their fresh, juicy, sticky goodness. The pile of pineapple was on top, so I had some of that first. Mmmhmmmm. As I slowly bit into each piece, the little stacks of wet, sugar-impregnated pineapple fibers yielded to the pressure of my teeth, releasing their inner nectar. Ripe, flavorful, luscious. How could the universe improve upon that perfection?
After a few chunks of pineapple, it was time for the mango. This ripe mango was a deep shade of yellow, and had a texture like lightly-sauteed foie gras – so barely-solid as to be almost liquid, waiting for the tiniest provocation to release itself into an (more…)
It must have happened to you hundreds of times.
There you are at a cocktail party, holding a mojito in one hand and holding forth on everything and nothing with the other, eliciting nods and knowing chuckles from your audience. You look good. Life is good. Then someone asks out of the blue, “So what the hell is this whole Taoism thing about?”
Aw man. Not that again. I mean, is it Taoism with a T, or Daoism with a D? And what’s that yin-yang symbol thingie anyway? Not your area of your expertise, not your bowl of porridge, not in your wheelhouse. End of your cocktail party mojo.
This is a pretty common condition, as I recently found out. A friend who was intrigued by Eastern philosophy but hadn’t the occasion to study it yet asked me what Taoism was all about. Mojito in hand, three basic principles came to mind which I thought you would find useful as a quick introduction, so you’re properly armed for next time it comes up:
First concept: No-Name
The first is the no-name principle. The Tao Te Ching opens:
The tao that can be named
Is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named
Is not the eternal Name.
The unnamable is the eternally real.
Naming is the origin of all particular things.
What is true and real has no name. Once you step outside of the Earth’s eggshell-thin atmosphere into outer space, you reside in the nameless vast. It’s just there. No name tags, no labels, no logos, no brands, no rank. So anytime you see a name or label, it’s not real. And we’re not just talking about (more…)