I thought I had made a tremendous discovery a few years ago. It came to me one day when I was hoeing (hoes are great think machines). I decided, all of a sudden, that the world was eternal. It had no beginning and won’t end. That was a frightening idea because it went against all that I had been taught in science or religion. Every effect was to supposed to have a cause. But the idea of a world without beginning or end resolved the major philosophical contradictions and mystifications clambering around in my mind so I decided to go with it. The funny part is that I believed my hoe and I were the first to come up with this idea. I had no notion, until a year or so later, that this was the basis of a philosophical system that dated back thousands of years— Taoism. My hoe and I were way behind the times. We didn’t even know how to the pronounce the word correctly.
As with any new discovery, I then began to see Taoism popping up everywhere. There’s even a new gardening book out by Carol Deppe, titled The Tao of Vegetable Gardening. But it was not until last week when I read a post by William Edelen who writes “The Contrary Minister” on the Ukiah Blog that is the companion to this one, that I realized just how appropriate Taoism is for farmers. We are either gnashing teeth for lack of rain or going out of our minds because it won’t quit raining. No matter how hard we work or how clever we are, we do not have as much influence over farming as my hoe has.
In a recent post, the Contrary Minister says he is a Taoist. No wonder I have enjoyed what he writes. But up to now, I had not known much about what a modern Taoist thinks beyond contemplating the awesome notion that the material universe just might be forever. According to him, a happy life is all about accepting the world as it is. He wasn’t addressing farmers particularly, but what he says is especially appropriate for us. He compares life to a flowing river. When the river meets an irresistible object, it simply flows around it. Humans should do the same. Don’t curse the boulder blocking your path. Don’t shatter yourself to mental anguish trying to shatter it. Just quietly flow around it. In other words don’t be a control freak. Says Edelen: “No matter how much structure we create in our lives, there will ALWAYS be things we can’t control and if we let them, these things can be a huge sense of anger, stress and frustration.”