(Originally written 14 January, 2004)
This will be my eighteenth of these columns. This has some significance in numerology. The number 18 is a 9. In The New Math (which has become old already), as in some numerology systems (there are many), one ‘casts out’ 9’s. They make no difference in the equation. 18 is followed by 19, a “1”. The beginning of a new cycle. This will not occur again until the number 36, another 9 in numerology. The ninth one of these columns I titled “The Debt I Can Never Repay”, dedicated to my Sifu, Kam Yuen, and how I learned to follow The Tao: a nice end for the cycle. The next column dealt with the childish game of kung fu for the movies. A small beginning. I didn’t plan any of this. Didn’t even notice it until just now. It just happened.
I don’t know how long I’m going to be able to continue these columns. I could end it now; or I could (maybe just for starters) go on for another year and a half, until the next cycle ends. Both of these ideas are attractive. I’m getting tired, to be honest, and my time is becoming more precious to me. On the other hand, the philosopher, Gurdjieff, stated that only when the end is reached, when weariness, pain or simply boredom makes it impossible to continue, only then does the exercise begin to have any meaningful effect.
Well, we’ll see. Chances are I’ll continue. I’m always eager to open new doors of perception.
In the old Taoist writings, they talk of three “immortalist” exercises. They mean this literally. The purpose being to banish death, as an inevitable conclusion, both philosophically and literally. These Sages speak of The Earth as a living organism. They say the human body and the planet share the same physiognomy. When we’re in the womb, our nutrition is supplied through the navel. They say if a line is drawn from the central plain of China to The South, one can find the spot where The Earth is supplied with nutrition: The navel of The Earth. What we come to if we try that are the oil fields of The Middle East. A definite hot spot. Now, if we drew a line straight through The Earth from there, we’d find ourselves at The Bermuda Triangle, which may or may not be a source of death. In Taoist teachings, there is a spot in the back at the waist, directly opposite the navel, called the “gate of life”, or the “door of fate”. There’s said to be a mysterious connection between these spots in our bodies and these regions of The Earth. Some of us may have noticed how, when we’re tired, and as we grow older, we get a back ache right there. I’ve found it goes away if I keep moving and think young thoughts.
So, these “immortalist” exercises on a lesser plane could help us with longevity, if immortality sounds a little beyond reality; though I hasten to say, these Taoist Sages don’t see it that way. It seems to be more a question of balance than anything. The yin and yang. They talk about pairing these two opposites so that they work together. Putting fire and water together, mating The Dragon and The Tiger. Body and Spirit. It all sounds great, if unachievable. Sounds abstract, too. There are physical exercises, though, that lead in this direction. and there are a number of chemical formulas, elixirs, which help the process. Maybe we’ll get into that somewhere down the line, if I continue with this column. But, if I don’t, think about this, Everything you’ve dreamed of, as you’ve studied The Arts, is out there, can be reached. Keep searching, and you’ll find it all. Balance the disciplines with The Freedoms. Pursue The spiritual, along with the moves. Get serious, and have some fun as well.
Things are in process in the world which could change everything. It could be for the better, if we all help out. Or it could lead to absolute disaster. An enormous cleansing is in process. But, we aren’t all geniuses. Some of us are likely to break things while we’re trying to fix them. The baby can get thrown out with the dishwater. There’s a lot of that going on. Human history is full of examples of horrible transgressions performed in the name of improvement. Apathy and sloth can run things down pretty quickly, but ill-conceived activism can destroy it all in an instant. So, listen to that higher being within you. It’s easy to go in the wrong direction, much easier than it is to go in the right direction.
A human being is the most intelligent of creatures. We can employ technology aimed at endlessly extending our comfort and satisfying sensual desires; exploiting and exhausting natural resources. That’s pretty much what we’re doing as a species. There is hardly a large enough Brazilian mahogany tree anymore to make a guitar from. Most of the water in the world is undrinkable because of stuff we’ve dumped into it. Is that our purpose here? To just use it all up as fast as we can, and turn what’s left into a slag heap? Couldn’t we instead be the gardeners? Nurturing and conserving? There are things which should be done and things which should not be done. It should be simple. Pursuing that which is beneficial and avoiding that which is harmful.
Just as we are polluting and exhausting the planet, so we are messing with our bodies and our minds, feeding them both junk, letting our baser desires run the show. So, we make a mess out of the whole thing. Our bodies and our spirits, hand in hand, turn into a swamp. Then, duh, we get sick and die.
It doesn’t have to work that way. With the billions of unenlightened people in the world, we can’t be expected to be able to turn the planet around all by ourselves, but we can turn ourselves around, and through the pebble-in-the-pond process, have an effect.
Enough. I’m no kind of preacher. Just a struggling organism, wrestling with my own messy house. Anyway, I didn’t make up this stuff. It was all said by some very wise sages thousands of years ago.
If I continue with this column next month, as I suspect I will, I’ll try to be more fun, but I had to, at the end of this cycle, spit out this stuff.
Because of the lag-time between when I deliver these columns and when they’re published, I’m actually writing this at New Years: a time for atonement and reassessment, ending the old and starting the new. I’m looking forward to 2004 with great optimism. Let’s get it together.
Happy New Year everybody.