It’s not black and white

As I stated in my last post, gray is the color of evil in my stories, not black.  

This started as a recognition of the power of words, and the impact they have on our thinking. The white is good and black is evil dichotomy is very old, and probably predates white vs. Black racism. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t support this evil way of thinking.  

This was incredibly well dramatized in a scene from the movie Malcolm X. While Malcolm was in prison, a fellow inmate had him look up the words “black” and “white”. While white has almost completely positive associations, black is defined with words about distress, crime and evil. Again, these things possibly developed out of inoffensive feelings like fear of the dark, or of the unknown, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t supported stereotypes and prejudice. Here’s the link if you want to watch. 

I really like the band The Killers, but there are lines in their new song “Boy” that bother me. I hope the lyrics “White arrows will break/ The black night” are not intended to be racial, but I can certainly understand someone interpreting them in that way. 

Besides the potential problems with these opposing colors, I think it is also lazy writing. We’ve used these symbols for thousands of years – maybe it’s time to come up with a new way to capture evil. I am going to keep using gray.  

Tao of Fractals

Fractals fascinate me. Not the math, though I’m sure it’s great, but the patterns. If you don’t know what I mean, check out . Zoom in as much as you want, and you will see repeating, incredibly similar patterns. It’s the similarity that intrigues me: no two structures are quite the same even though they are very alike. 

The Tao Te Ching talks about the earth as a place where “creatures flourish together, endlessly repeating, endlessly renewed.” I think this is an essential understanding of the nature of existence. There is a conservation of form. Humans have an enormous amount of things in common, but physically, intellectually, emotionally, there is enormous variation. 

When patterns work Nature replicates them. Its genius is that it is a pattern, not a mold. Though there are masses of humans, we are not mass produced. We follow the blueprint, but the differences are manifold.

I like to take ideas like this and apply them to my life. Notice my repeated patterns. Observe what is the same, and also the variations. I learn about myself from my own behavior and work, and like Nature, I can choose to repeat what successful and discard what is unsustainable.  

****Interested in philosophy and Taoism? Check out my book Tao of Thoreau. ****

Avoid the Beginning of Evil

When I decided to launch this website, Henry David Thoreau had a talk with me. He reminded me of a time he had three pieces of limestone on his desk, and became “terrified” when he realized he had to dust them every day, so he “threw them out the window in disgust.” 

His punch line was: “It’s best to avoid the beginning of evil.” 

Thoreau is showing his sense of humor with some hyperbole, but his point is strong: consider the new objects and projects that you take on carefully, and think about the amount of work involved in maintaining them. 

Metaphorically, Thoreau’s limestone represents any task or duty that demands our attention and work. As I say in Tao of Thoreau, when we start something new, we need to be “ready to bring the energy and focus required.” I thought about this a lot as I designed 

I’m launching this site at the end of the school year, which can be a stressful and exhausting time. For this blog to succeed, I need to produce and post content so people who like it will keep coming back. I need to find creative ways to promote it so that it grows. This is a lot of work; moreover, it is work that I will have to sustain for a long time for this site to become successful.  

Then I realized something, so I said this back to Thoreau: “The limestone was decoration. You didn’t want to waste your time on something you didn’t have to. Writing is something I want to do. And with a website, other people can read my work, which has always been my goal.” 

I didn’t see Lao-Tzu there until he said, “That’s right.” I looked at him, and he spoke in that calm voice, echoing with centuries of wisdom: “Do you work and step back. The only path to serenity.”

Thoreau didn’t have anything to say to that, so I guess I have avoided the beginning of evil.