All posts tagged: Culture

Content exploring culture.

Tao Today Part 1

Tao Today: A Sage’s Take on Modern Society, Part 2

In response to the predicament of his times, Lao Tzu ruminated on the essence of human nature and asked: What can be done to stop the injustice, violence, and greed that inevitably corrupts the core of civilization? According to Welch, the old sage came to the conclusion that a radical operation must be performed on human nature before these systemic issues could be resolved: “First he cuts out desire for superfluous material goods (they only keep their owner awake at night), then desire for praise and fear of blame (both drive men mad), then desire for power (the only successful ruler is one who suffers as his kingdom suffers). But this is not enough. Morality is frequently used to justify violence. Morality must go. Violence frequently starts with a fixed difference of opinion. Fixed opinion must go. But without desire, morality, and opinion, what is left for a man to occupy his time? The best things of all: physical enjoyment and cultivation of the inner life. Once a man knows these, success in competition will …

Tao Today Part 1

Tao Today: A Sage’s Take on Modern Society, Part 1

If you follow Ekostories on a regular basis, you would know that one of my chief influences is author Ursula K. Le Guin. It was through her work that I first became intrigued by Taoism as a philosophy. Growing up in Hong Kong, my first encounters with Daoism came from ancient tales of whiskery old hermits who sought immortality and strangely robed priests who conducted rituals for the dead. In my adult life, I see bits and pieces of it incorporated haphazardly in the New Age movement. Neither experience was grounded in any context, and as such were bereft of personal meaning and value. For me, Taoism existed as a series of bizarre and disconnected ideas, frequently esoteric and utterly incomprehensible. Le Guin’s stories changed that. A lifelong student of the Tao Te Ching, she wove its ideas into her writing in a way that made the philosophy tangible, relevant, and meaningful. Her own interpretation of the ancient text is by no means the most accurate, complete, or definitive, but what it lacks in faithfulness it …

Avatar Four Elements by Ebelin

Avatar: The Last Airbender – Forces for Change

One of the most well executed aspects of Avatar: The Last Airbender is its depiction of the four elemental nations of its fictional world. The depth and care taken to create the Water Tribes, Earth Kingdom, Fire Nation, and Air Nomads contributed enormously to the richness of the show, creating a world of diverse cultures and perspectives. This helps to separate Avatar from many contemporary and more derivative works of fantasy. Embedded within the fictional world of Avatar is the idea that each society and its people reflect the tendencies of their  element.  But after a century-long absence of the Avatar, the nations have become stagnant, unbalanced, dysfunctional, and in need of serious reform. In this entry, I’ll explore how the protagonists of Avatar serve as agents of change in the world by embodying the best qualities of their respective elements.

Princess Mononoke

Before Cameron’s Avatar: Princess Mononoke

“In ancient times, the land lay covered in forests, where from ages long past, dwelt the spirits of the gods. Back then, man and beast lived in harmony, but as time went by, most of the great forests were destroyed. Those that remained were guarded by gigantic beasts who owed their allegiances to the Great Forest Spirit, for those were the days of gods and of demons…” – Introduction of Princess Mononoke I consider Princess Mononoke, a film by Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli, to be one of the best environmental movie in history. Inspired by the tumultuous Muromachi era in Japanese history, Princess Mononoke explores the relationship between humans and nature in all its complex and tragic facets. Unlike many other environmental films but like so many of Miyazaki’s works, Mononoke does away with clear-cut dichotomies of good and bad; characters act with understandable motivations. Most of them are capable of change and in some cases, even redemption. The film’s unusual conclusion stresses the need for acceptance, integration, and reconciliation, even in the face of horrifying, …

Michael Pollan Second Nature: A Gardener's Education Word Cloud 2

Pollan’s Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education, Part 2

Welcome to part two of the analysis on Michael Pollan’s Second Nature: a Gardener’s Education. In this entry, I’ll focus on my two favourite chapters of the book: Planting a Tree and The Idea of a Garden. The Meaning of a Tree In Planting a Tree, Pollan explores the fascinating and ever-changing cultural significance of a tree. Once again, his reflections come out of his horticultural adventures; the chapter chronicles his thoughts as he decides on the right tree for his yard. The act of tree planting prompts Pollan to delve deep into American history to explore the meanings people have come to attach to the tree: The Divine Tree: Native Americans saw and treated trees as divine spirits, only to be cut down in need. The Tree of Evil: Puritans despised them as symbols for pantheism, danger, and darkness. The Tree as a Weed: New England subsistence farmers regarded them as obstacles to settlement. To them, the clear-cut landscape was viewed as a sign of progress and civilization. The Tree as a Commodity: The …