Back when I was still in the Masters program for Oriental Medicine, I made friends with a fella from China who was a non-denomination Christian pastor. He asked me once if I attended church, and I told him that I didn’t, and that my “church” is at home on my meditation cushion practicing Neigong (mindful meditation/internal cultivation). He told me that’s awesome, and since he’s familiar with Taoism being a spiritual person from China, he asked, “Taoism makes you feel pretty small and insignificant, doesn’t it?”At the time, I was still pretty new to the deeper practices and philosophies of Taoism (I had just started my candidacy for Taoist Priesthood – long story there LOL), so I wasn’t really sure what he meant.
I remember going home that day and really, really, truly reading into the Taoist scripture and Tao Te Ching, and realized he was right. For a split second, Taoism does makes you feel small and insignificant because there is much emphasis in forgetting about yourself and focusing on the way mother nature works, including everything beyond Earth’s atmosphere. And when you take a peak at Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot,” and listen to his speech on it, you do realize that you are really quite insignificant.
But people can take that feeling of insignificance in a few ways, but the two biggest ways that come to my mind are that it either makes you feel uncomfortable, or it makes you feel alive.
The fact that our seemingly huge planet is not even a speck in the observable universe makes people uncomfortable simply because you realize that our feelings of self-importance is only really relative to the human experience, so our mundane problems and wants and needs are relatively less important than we think, and so that just doesn’t do it for many people.
For me, knowing that I’m insignificant makes me feel alive. There are so many mysteries to the universe that it keeps me starved to learn more about it. Teachings by Neil deGrasse Tyson and Carl Sagan encourage me to continue believing that the fact that we don’t know everything gives us purpose because the more that we learn about the universe, the more we can learn about ourselves.
That’s about as Taoist as you can get… and I say that because what a lot of people don’t realize was that ancient Taoists back in the day observed mother nature and the heavens above as a way to understand ourselves, our bodies, and our civilizations. This is how they came up with things such as medicine (acupuncture/herbal medicine) and the I-Ching (a way to understand what’s happening now and what it may lead to in the future) because they believed that the human body and human civilization is but a microcosm of the universe, because we all came from the same star-stuff (The Big Bang theory and Taoist cosmology are virtually the same).
This is the very reason why I view theoretical physicists and astrophysicists as modern-day Taoists (along with the vast many other scientists searching/pioneering for answers within nature). They’re on a constant search for knowledge.
Ancient Taoists back then observed the universe, recorded their findings, and came up with various lifestyle practices (medicine, nutrition, Qigong) to prolong their lives in order to keep contributing to the great database of human exploration and knowledge.
And to me, that is the meaning of life.