“And,” she said.
When Trey asked me to consider being a contributor to Rambling Taoists, I first dismissed the notion; though I had contemplated offering myself even before he asked, I perceived my persona as a lurking pesky commenter to be sufficient response to bring a little yin to the yang of the blog, through occasional friendly sparring, like “push minds.” Sometimes I wonder, “Why am I even reading this blog?” and then I once again click the link from my own, where I deal a bit obliquely with the "subject matter" (through the ordinary perplexities of my life, Sinology and China watching, wuxia drama, hot Asian shifus and actors, and Bactrian camels).
And (despite my seventh-grade English teacher’s admonition to NEVER start a sentence with “and”) I am cursed with that copy editor mentality that honors precision, accuracy, and honesty (and the serial comma) in the written word, all the while regarding it like a martial arts weapon—mightier than the sword to carve out truth and slice up lies, but not as any truth in itself. Do I really want the pressure of performing in another venue?
And… I am happy and fortunate to have the luxury and time for things that are making my aging brain sparkle: brush painting (lots of Chinese painters take up the brush in later life), sitting in on a class in Chinese thought at the university where I now earn my living, commuting with stimulating Teaching Company lectures, wary participation in another more or less Taoist online activity group, and planning to go back to China some time in 2012 for more study and training.
And…I have a perspective, not just female/yin, but du certain age, in a particular cultural setting (Hawaii is different—by no means an East-West melting pot, but a place where lunch may include rice with your spaghetti, and where the defense industry is as important as tourism to the vitality of the economy). When I confront the topics that turn up here (self and no-self, war and peace, politics and economics, philosophy and religion, faith and reason, orthodoxy and heresy, sickness and health, work and play, rice and spaghetti), I like to consider the contradictions in a Chinese way, resolving them with “and” rather than “or.” It’s my answer to everything, like Scott’s “yes.” The yin of the taiji is “secondary,” but always overcoming yang, adding something to one to make three, and on and on. Odd numbers are yang; even numbers are yin. Without yin, there is no balance. In this cumulative dynamic, maybe that is why pi, irrational and transcendental, is neither yang nor yin, like Tao, infinitely developing, repeating, manifesting (as far as we know).
And…to clarify my positions, I am not very interested in the emptiness of Buddhism (except in an academic way and to the extent it has influenced Quanzhen); I feel the philosophical/religious Taoism distinction is somewhat artificial; I am not a social-political activist (I have abandoned idealistic social conscience for a somewhat realpolitik tendency, so perhaps it's just as well); I have deep respect for certain Christian traditions, and I don't have a lot of patience with new-agey posturing. I like the Confucian Temple with its gnarly old cedars in Beijing much more than the smoky Lama Temple across the street (though my true heart is in Wudang). I have a degree in philosophy with a lot of religion and literature credits thrown in. I picked up history and science, later, on my own. I have made my career, now waning, in the communications industry. I am an only child, married for nearly 43 years, have one son (I am respected by the Chinese), but I'm not very family-oriented in terms of my identity, though I probably have done right enough in the filial piety area.
But…I do think that Laozi and Zhuangzi, all the way to the Quanzhen school, and before and beyond, (incuding the wuxing, the bagua, the Yijing and its hexagrams) describe a superb way, a framework with fabulous metaphors, that explains how the world works and how we can function in it. My engagement with it has made me a more satisfied and, I hope, better, person.
"Let me think about it," she said, eyeing that water buffalo heading west.
And then she said “And.”