The Tao of Nature
Penguin : Great Ideas
Paperback : 26 Aug 2010
Chuang Tzu examines the nature of existence in these dialogues and essays, from the battle to grasp the purpose of life to the search for knowledge. A collection of some of the most absorbing and charming philosophy ever written, THE TAO OF NATURE is also about perfection, perception, the value of skills and the truth revealed by complete understanding.
GREAT IDEAS. Throughout history, some books have changed the world. They have transformed the way we see ourselves - and each other. They have inspired debate, dissent, war and revolution. They have enlightened, outraged, provoked and comforted. They have enriched lives - and destroyed them. Now Penguin brings you the works of the great thinkers, pioneers, radicals and visionaries whose ideas shook civilization and helped make us who we are.
Student review by Khadija Dawood Paruk, University of Birmingham
The Penguin Great Ideas Season is an opportunity for everyone to become acquainted with revolutionary ideas without the need for prior knowledge and previous study. This includes the oriental philosophy Taoism discussed in the book The Tao of Nature based on the teachings of Chuang Tzu. Briefly, the teachings state that Tao cannot be defined but represents the cycle of life and flow of nature thus linking in with the idea of reincarnation. Generally Taoism suggests succumbing to fate because fighting the inevitable disturbs the harmony of the individual through worry and stress while acceptance leads to peace. Moreover that event or state which appears to be initially undesirable, in hindsight may be beneficial which has been discovered in both my experience of life and others. The philosophy of Tao is therefore immediately concerned with the individual’s plight and harmony as opposed to the whole of society. But readers may be surprised with the portrayal of Confucius as a student of Tao and an ‘imperfect’ man because of his emphasis on order in society through responsibility rather than harmony in the individual. Despite this portrayal many followers of Taoism also adopt philosophies of Confucius since both can co-exist as Tao is suitable for the individual while Confucius’s teachings are concerned with society.
Although the teachings of Chuang Tzu originated from approximately the third century, it is especially relevant to this materialistic era and world where financial troubles and other stressful concerns dominate especially as both Taoism and today’s world celebrates individual happiness as portrayed through the current circulation of terms like ‘job satisfaction’ and ‘continued professional development’. It has therefore been recognised that individual harmony is vital for success as long as the individual is not motivated by materialistic goals and worldly desires. These philosophies have been unknowingly incorporated within other theories as I discovered that they complemented the theories discussed in my dissertation for my MA which although primarily for linguistics overlapped with psychological and philosophical theories. A prime example is the different types of motivation and perspectives of humans compared to animals. Not only therefore does the Tao of Nature successfully assimilate with other theories but the Tao of Nature is still relevant today.
Furthermore the book is extremely successful in communicating these ideas. Many philosophical books are neglected due to their tendency to preach and the stilted tongue used to present revolutionary ideas. In contrast the Tao of Nature is highly distinguishable from other works not just by the philosophies purported but by the unusual manner that the reader is guided towards an understanding of Tao. Instead of a dry dull encyclopaedic entry in each section, the philosophy is demonstrated through anecdotes, dialogue and examples which are perhaps comparable to parables but without moralising. I particularly enjoyed the analogy of the praying mantis warning about being overconfident: “In it’s anger it (the praying mantis) waved it’s arms in front of a speeding carriage having no understanding it could not stop it but having full confidence in it’s own powers” (page 16). Such anecdotes characterise the book. Consequently the reader isn’t a passive onlooker but is active in deducing and exploring Tao. To quote Louis May Alcott (Good Wives: pg 131 Penguin): “this way of studying suits me and I can see that the grammar gets tucked into the tales and poetry as one gives pills in jelly” whereby Taoism represents the pill albeit one which is sweet and sugary. Lastly, The Tao of Nature is structured carefully into 14 small bite size sections or ‘parts’ such as “reality and happiness”, “perfect accord” and “grasping the purpose of life” to allow the reader to absorb different applications of Taoism. However the whole book despite it’s demur appearance shouldn’t be read in one sitting as this only grazes the surface. From my experience each part should be read separately to allow the meaning and philosophy to be pondered and absorbed subconsciously. It was quite apt and poignant that the Tao of Nature accompanied me on holiday since the majority of the book was read on a quiet beach away from worldly concerns thus allowing me to feel the full magnanimity and relevance of the Tao philosophy. I therefore recommend reading this in a rural setting especially if feeling stressed since nature as a unified cycle can be viewed, felt and appreciated.
To conclude, this book The Tao of Nature for me is a much needed philosophy that is meant to extend beyond the pages particularly today where individuality is prized highly while at the same time conforming to many so-called celebrity icons is disgracefully encouraged. Individuals are valued as part of nature and not overlooked. These ideas are easy to discuss as my family had enjoyable discussions regarding different extracts and often applied it to points of contention such as celebrity culture, globalisation and the state of society. It is also a book that I will inevitably return to as it offers comfort in the knowledge that events and burdens may mask blessings which makes worrying and stress unnecessary.
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Size : 111 x 181mm
Pages : 176
Published : 26 Aug 2010
Publisher : Penguin
The Tao of Nature
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