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Tao Te Ching

Posted in Global Travel, Mystical Experience, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 18, 2012 by javedbabar

“This is ridiculous,” said Danny. “Can you please make up your mind which comes first, Tao Ching or Te Ching?”

“Well, that is what we are discussing,” said Sophie. “It could be either.”

“Isn’t the name of the work Tao Te Ching? It has eighty-one chapters in a particular order, so why don’t we stick with that?”

The rest of the production crew looked at each other in general agreement, but also at Danny, annoyed. He didn’t know how to endear himself to people. Sophie was much better at that.

She said, “Because there is a school of thought that the first thirty seven chapters, Tao Ching, and the next forty four chapters, Te Ching, were reversed in the original text. The original may work better for dramatic purposes. I want to hear everyone’s thoughts on this before scheduling the show.”

Tao Te Ching had been an unpopular choice from the beginning. It lacked the narrative structure of previous productions such as Osiris, Beowulf or Gilgamesh. It was a mystical work full of contradictions.

Sophie envisioned the show as an experiential rather than narrative production, and had in truth, forced it upon them. The QARY project was her baby. It was she who had initiated the conversion of the old quarry into a venue for multimedia productions. She would call the shots.

Danny persisted in being difficult. He said, “Look, it’s easy to do. I know how to do it. We are trying to create the essential, unfathomable process of the universe. Something dreamy and mysterious, strange and illuminating. It’s the feeling you get when you’re stoned. All we have to do is re-create that.”

The production crew sniggered and ribbed each other. Sophie wanted to smile but kept a straight face. “Thank you for that, Danny. Why don’t you bring a joint for everyone to the next meeting? One, two, three…ten, eleven, twelve. That’s twelve joints, okay?”

Danny said, “Okay,” weakly, and Sophie forgot all about it.

At the next meeting, Danny looked pleased with himself. He opened a golden silk pouch embroidered with a dragon, and produced twelve joints. Everyone cheered.

Sophie had given up smoking four years ago but still indulged in herbs. Once everyone had a joint in hand, she said, “First I will recap, and then let’s brainstorm.”

She reminded them that Tao Te Ching is filled with short deliberate statements and intentional contradictions. Memorable phrases are delivered, and readers forced to create their own reconciliations of the supposed contradictions.

Poets, painters, warriors and gardeners had used it as a source of inspiration for millennia. It had political advice for kings, and practical wisdom for regular people. It had a long textual history and a limitless variety of interpretations. What could the production team glean from the work? They examined a few phrases together.

“The Tao that can be told, is not the Eternal Tao.”

“Darkness within darkness, the gateway to all understanding.”

“If you want to become whole, let yourself be partial.”

“The Tao never does anything, yet through it all things are done.”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” said Danny. “I am not doing this production.”

Sophie smiled and said, “You have a choice to make Danny. There is doing by doing, which is effective work; there is doing by not doing, which means avoiding mistakes; there is not doing by doing, which means correcting errors. There is also not doing by not doing, which is unemployment. Which do you prefer?”

Head Half-Full

Posted in Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 3, 2012 by javedbabar

Zadam had predicted Armageddon. The whole village was now scared and shunned him.

For a while he had been the most popular person in Lucerne. Citizens lauded his demolishing of politicians’ bullshit at the town hall meeting, and liked the way their pets frolicked around him, as if he were a forest god. But after his humming, spinning, sparking display in the park, and his prophecies of global doom, they avoided him.

This didn’t seem to bother Zadam. As a deformed man with upside-down head, he was used to social rejection. His only real friend in the village, Shama, still dropped by and encouraged him to go out.

“Why should I?” Zadam asked him.

“Because it is nice to go walking – you get fresh air and exercise. I know there are people who make you feel uncomfortable. Just ignore them. While I am with you, they won’t come close.”

For the first time since he had met him, Shama saw a tear appear in Zadam’s eye. Because his eyes were near his chin, the tear appeared, rolled down, and disappeared quickly. “What is wrong?” asked Shama.

“Nothing at all,” he said and turned away. Then he turned back. “I am nothing at all to most people. I am someone creepy and disgusting. That’s why I hide in this hood.” He stopped speaking and looked down.

Zadam was a grown man. Shama didn’t know what to do. Should he hug him? Would that be too invasive?

Shama did what came naturally. He wiped the next tear, and held Zadam in his arms. He kissed him on the forehead, like a kid brother. It seemed a little strange because his forehead was placed where you would expect his mouth to be.

Zadam began venturing out again “by his own,” but whenever Shama saw him he was not alone. People walked beside him, quizzing him about his apocalyptic prophecy that the world was unbalanced and about to break, or following him quietly, reverentially. They felt sorry for him, and scared, and wanted to show they supported him.

A local holy man, Ozwald Malchizedek, also known as OM, declared that Zadam was divinely inspired. He said, “There was the first man, Adam, and now the last man, Zadam. These are clear signs for believers.”

He tried to be seen walking ahead of Zadam, but Zadam was unpredictable and stopped and started without warning. Eventually OM began following a few paces behind, telling people that Zadam was the herald for a forthcoming Master, not saying, but implying, himself.

Shama saw Zadam across the railway tracks, like when they had first met. The red lights began flashing, bells ringing, and barriers falling. These stimuli were picked up by sensors, converted into signals, collated by receptors, and interpreted by cells. What to make of this sensory overload? It indicated there was a train approaching.

Similarly, how should Shama react to Zadam’s warnings of global disaster? He asked him after the train had passed, on the railway tracks.

He said, “It is up to you. It is all going to happen one day, today, Saturday, who knows? But I am a head half-full kind of guy. We can have lots of fun before then.”

Zadam pulled out a whistle from his coat pocket and blew it from the mouth at the centre of his forehead. He led the crowd following him along the railway tracks.