Nature is not natural and can never be naturalized — Graham Harman

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Objects are Taoists

Objects are Keats poems, relations are Shelley poems. Objects are Taoists, relations are Confucianists. Objects are yogis, relations are monasteries.

Without monasteries, yogic experiences would not be shared. Without yogis, monasteries would not exist. They exist in a symbiotic way in Tibet. A yogi meditates in a cave. People come with offerings. Others start to meditate nearby to seek succor. Slowly a monastery is built around her practice. When she dies, the monastery continues. The yogi is still there, in the sensual objects that build up around her. But she is not really there.

Taoists are into spontaneity, things existing from their own side. In Taiwan I saw so many Taoist objects, including bamboo forests into which people had helpfully nailed ladders, so you could climb around in them. Wooden ladders, unobtrusive, solid, worn. The way gnarly roots look and the way good sculptures and miniature trees seem to ape that.

Relations create relatively stable grids and maps in which we can find ourselves. If there were no relations, objects couldn't communicate. There would be no causality. If there were no objects, relations would cease.

Here is a nice Taoist poem: for “I” read “the object”:

Eliminate learning so as to have no worries
Yes and no, how far apart are they?
Good and evil, how far apart are they?

What the sages fear,
I must not fear.
I am the wilderness before the dawn.

The multitude are busy and active…
I alone am bland,
As if I have not yet emerged into form.
Like an infant who has not yet smiled,
Lost, like one who has nowhere to return.

The multitudes all have too much;
I alone am deficient.
My mind is that of a fool,

Worldly people are luminous;
I alone am dark.
Worldly people are clear-sighted;
I alone am dull,
I am calm like the sea,
Like the high winds I never stop.

The multitudes all have their use;
I alone am untamable like lowly material.
I alone am different from others.
For I treasure feeding on the Mother.
From Tao Te Ching 20. Translation: Ellen M. Chen

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