I wrote yesterday about the review I received about my book Tao of Thoreau. Here’s a little more from the review:
Voice and Writing Style: The author’s writing here is good, succinct, and sets forward his premise clearly, without fuss. He has produced a simple little volume in good form.
I like this one because it reflects exactly what I was going for – succinct, clear and readable. I actually take it as a complement that the reviewer uses the word “simple”. A lot of my effort was taking deep and complicated ideas and presenting them in a readable format that is accessible to anyone. And Thoreau did encourage us to simplify.
The Tao Te Ching was an excellent model. It’s a remarkable book, with transcendent ideas presented simply. Yet, upon reflection, the ideas are incredibly deep, universal and comprehensive. If my book reflects even a small part of this aspect, I was successful.
I entered Tao of Thoreau into a contest for self-published non-fiction. Although it didn’t win, I did receive a review from one of the judges.
Of course, I was apprehensive, seeing as my book didn’t make the cut. However, the review was very positive, and was yet another boost along this journey.
Here is a sample:
Topic Appeal: The author has found a quite unique topic in seeing Thoreau firstly for what he was, a Transcendentalist—therefore, in actuality a Taoist. The BBC says Taoism is deeply rooted in Chinese customs and worldview, whereas Google tells us Transcendentalism comes out of America’s early New England region. The author here shows us that these two philosophies, in reality, share similar views, a useful point of view.
First, I love that the reviewer is clearly British. This probably means this person has little knowledge of Thoreau, which I actually like because the book has to stand on its own merits and not rely on the reviewer’s knowledge.
My favorite piece of this section is the final five words “a useful point of view.” Though this isn’t exactly high praise, I find it valuable. It is some confirmation that the idea I had to compare these two philosophies is a good one. I mean, I certainly believed it, but it is good to have outside confirmation.
I read Whitman’s poem last night. Really a worthwhile read.
This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, Despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, Stand up for the stupid and crazy, Devote your income and labors to others, Hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, Have patience and indulgence toward the people, Take off your hat to nothing known or unknown, Or to any man or number of men, Go freely with powerful uneducated persons, And with the young and with the mothers of families, Read these leaves in the open air, Every season of every year of your life, Reexamine all you have been told, At school at church or in any book, Dismiss whatever insults your own soul, And your very flesh shall be a great poem, And have the richest fluency not only in its words, But in the silent lines of its lips and face, And between the lashes of your eyes, And in every motion and joint of your body.
I was walking Anna the dog to explore whether the bridge had been rebuilt in an area we like. When I saw that there was no bridge, I decided to explore along the stream to see if there was a way across, maybe some stones or logs.
There was nothing, but that’s not really what this post is about. I was looking at the stream with annoyance. I wanted to get across, and it was a barrier to my desires.
I stopped myself, realizing that my attitude didn’t really support my philosophy. A stream is a beautiful thing, and many times I’ve stopped by this water, gazed at it, enjoying the sight and sound. So I stopped myself, and Anna, and we looked down at the water, enjoying its burbling flow.
The lesson I’m trying to take away is that sometimes something enjoyable can be burdensome if we have the wrong attitude. I’m trying to make sure updating this website, working on my writing, isn’t an extra that seems like too much. Hopefully the lesson of this stream will help me in pursuing my ambitions.
Yesterday was supposed to be a great day. After I taught two classes in the morning, I was released for a personal half-day. My plan was to get an overdue oil change, do some Christmas shopping and watch the USA World Cup game.
But after the oil change, my tire pressure light came on. At first I was just annoyed, but when I pulled up to the first store, I could hear air coming out of the stem nozzle. After the oil change place told me they couldn’t do anything about it, I rushed to a tire place. There, they told me they could have it done by 7PM. It was 11:30 AM.
I wish I could say I dealt with this well. Thoreau talked about not getting thrown off by “nutshells and mosquito wings” that fell on the metaphorical train tracks. If a train was derailed by such small objects, it wouldn’t be a very good method of transportation.
But this problem seemed much larger to me. It was derailing my plans for the day.
For this day, I thought it would be nice to post one of my favorite passages from my book. The first part is a quote from Henry David Thoreau. The second is the connection I see to Taoism.
We should be blessed if we lived in the present always, and took advantage of every accident that befell us, like the grass which confesses the influence of the slightest dew that falls on it; and did not spend our time in atoning for the neglect of past opportunities.
We loiter in winter while it is already spring.
Earlier, Thoreau warned not to try to turn spring into summer; here he warns not to obsess on the past. Lao Tzu said:
Why was it that the ancients prized this Tao so much? Because it could be got by seeking for it, and the guilty could use it to escape the stain of guilt. This is the reason why all under heaven consider it the most valuable thing.
Learn from mistakes and missed opportunities and apply this learning going forward. Practice forgiving yourself, especially if you have accepted the lessons from your mistakes. Forge forward with this learning, determined to make a new day and a new you.