Sunday, May 15, 2011

Tao Te Ching: Why Lao Tsu Was Really a Libertarian Slacker

Jay and Silent Bob and the chi of the universe. Whoo.
   So, the Tao Te Ching is a philosophical text, and therefore not really a literary classic, but I'm reading it right now while watching Clerks and all I can think is that Lao Tzu (who wrote the TTC) is a total, unabashed, lazy-assed, small-government, go-with-the-flow, Big Lebowski-worshipping, Ayn Rand-reading, libertarian slacker.
But Lao Tsu rode a water buffalo.

     Lao Tzu likes to come across a guy who wanted to teach all of China -- nay, all of the world -- about the Tao, "the way," the thing which Jack Kerouac called "the golden eternity" and Yoda called "the force." But he was also that lovable combination of total slacker and hard-ass libertarian. Take, for instance, chapter 75, which contains this:

                                                  "Why are the people rebellious?
                                                    Because the rulers interfere to much.
                                                    Therefore they are rebellious."

Or, or, or -- how about chapter 57?

                                                  "The more laws and restrictions there are,
                                                    The poorer people become."

      Do you hear that? Is that a man somewhere in Oklahoma, shooting at pigeons from his lawn chair and screaming about healthcare and how government had better get outter his life, goshdarnit? Nope, it's a man riding a water buffalo like 2,600 years ago in China.
     And if you need a slacker, Lao Tzu has also got you covered there. The entire point of the TTC is "non-action." Like in Chapter 43, which reads, "there is power in non-action." Or Chapter 20, which gets all Ken Kesey by starting out saying "stop thinking and end your problems." (Because intellectualism is the root of all problems! Obviously!) Or Chapter 63, which says:                                                                                                                                        
                                                Practice non-action 
                                                Work without doing.
                                                Taste the tasteless.
                                               Magnify the small, increase the few.
                                              Reward the bitterness with care.                  

   If you record a reading the Tao Te Ching and then play it backwards, it's proven that you will end up with David Crosby sending you a mystical message about the powers of turning, turning, turning, stopping and saying "hey, what's that sound," and otherwise not throwing off the groovy groove of the universe. Because, were Lao Tzu alive today, he'd be that washed-up guy with a long beard who says "dude" far too often, most likely spouting off philosophical nonsense outside of, like, a bowling alley or something. And then going to a Ron Paul meeting. 
So, the dude abides. Lao Tzu abides. And presumably rode a water buffalo.
There's always the chance that Jeff Bridges got a hold of a time machine, went to the sixth century BC in China, and wrote a philosophy book.

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