All posts tagged: Taoism

Content exploring the philosophy of Taoism.

Happy Birthday, Ursula K. Le Guin

Today is the 86th birthday of author Ursula K. Le Guin, without whom I would have never wrote all the words on this blog, or any words in general, because I would have missed out on visiting worlds of wizards, dragons, aliens, Italians, anarchists, and ants. In light of this happy occasion, I’ve compiled the pieces I’ve written about her work over the years on Ekostories. To steal a passage from the introduction she did for James Tiptree Jr.’s Star Songs of an Old Primate: “Here are Some real stories.”

Left Hand of Darkness Word Cloud

Winter’s Tale: The Left Hand of Darkness

“Light is the left hand of darkness and darkness the left hand of light. Two are one, life and death, lying together like lovers in kemmer, like hands joined together, like the end and the way.” – Tormer’s Lay, p.233-234 Some stories enter our lives as flings, escapist tales that thrill and delight but leave little lasting impact. Others are more serious fare, demanding commitment and care. The going can be frustrating and difficult, if we are receptive and the tale rings true, we can find ourselves changed in some subtle way. After all, a good story, like a good relationship, has the power to help us learn about ourselves and grow in ways we could never discover alone. I wasn’t too impressed the first time I read The Left Hand of Darkness, arguably the most influential science fiction novel of the twentieth century. The beginning was glacial in pacing (pun intended if you’ve read the book), the alternating narration was jarring, and the linear narrative I expected from the genre was constantly interrupted by …

The Feminine and the Tao: An Interview with Le Guin

I would like to cap off the recent series of posts on Taoism with an interview with Ursula Le Guin, conducted by Brenda Peterson. In it, the lifelong student of Taoism talks about how the Tao Te Ching has influenced her personal life and the construction of her worldview. As usual, I find her comments accessible, refreshing, thought-provoking, and hilarious. Here are some of my favourite passages: 

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 …

The Man Who Planted Trees

L’homme qui plantait des arbres: The Man Who Planted Trees

The Man Who Planted Trees is one of my wife’s favourite stories. I was fortunate enough to see the Oscar-winning animated short film with her last year at the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival; I was immediately swept away by the beauty of both movie and message. Although it is a work of fiction, The Man Who Planted Trees is a testament to one man’s ability to bring about hope and happiness for himself and to the world around him.

Ged and Lebannen

Mindful Action: Le Guin’s The Farthest Shore, Part 1

The Farthest Shore is my favourite story of the Earthsea series. It is also one of my favourite novels of all time. While I loved Wizard more growing up, Shore is the book I come back to as an adult.  The prose is graceful and fluid, written by someone with mastery of the language. The exchanges between the characters are honest, heartfelt, and thought-provoking. It is a story that tackles the one theme we all must face: Death. I have taken both meaning and solace from its pages during times of loss and grief. The exploration of The Farthest Shore will be split into two parts; there’s simply too much material to cover in one entry. I’ve spent a tremendous amount of time with this book, so it’s no surprise that I have forged many connections with it. Let’s get started!