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HomeTaoismDiary of a Daoist Hermit: Ebook Evaluate: Daoist "Cli-Fi"

Diary of a Daoist Hermit: Ebook Evaluate: Daoist “Cli-Fi”

Final month I obtained an e-mail from one among my common readers asking if I might be focused on studying a guide he simply revealed titled Voice of the Elders. Once I answered within the affirmative, Greg Ripley (the writer) despatched me a overview model and I’ve spent the final month studying it in dribs and drabs each time I had the time. (Between this weblog, my different one, working full time, and many others, I’ve to measure my time with an eye-dropper.) I am glad I made the trouble.

Greg Ripley

The plot revolves round a younger lady, Rohini Haakonsen, who attends a youth convention on Local weather Change on the United Nations. Completely unexpectedly, a consultant of a mysterious alien race, “the Elders”, arrives and pronounces that they’ve determined to assist humanity cope with this existential risk. They actually “pop into existence” and “thoughts dump” large quantities of knowledge into the heads of assorted world leaders, engineers, and, scientists about how they’ll shortly “rejig” the world economic system into one that’s not dependant on fossil fuels. A nefarious industrialist—who is closely invested in fossil fuels—organises a terrorist marketing campaign towards this transition, and, a secret Daoist organisation emerges to assist Rohini and the Elders. Daring do, knowledge teachings, and, hints at future conflicts to be resolved in sequel novels are woven collectively into a reasonably good piece of escapist fiction.


The very first thing to know is that there’s a custom in Daoism of utilizing common literature as a educating medium. The concept relies on the concept “it is simpler to catch flies with honey than vinegar”. If you would like individuals to study what you’re educating, do not trouble with ponderous, hard-to-understand books of philosophy, simply write a fascinating novel that explains your concepts as a part of an fulfilling plot. Certainly, it was with this concept in thoughts that the man who initiated me into Daoism instructed Eva Wong (one other particular person from my temple) translate Seven Taoist Masters into English. (I do not usually recommend that individuals learn Wong’s translations as a result of they’re normally horrible. However I’ve by no means discovered one other English model of this guide, so I’ve added the hyperlink.) One other, for much longer, extra well-known instance is Journey to the West. (This hyperlink is to the W.J.F. Jenner translation, which is the perfect one I’ve found—there are a number of actually unhealthy, abridged translations too.)

So the thought of writing a well-liked novel to elucidate Daoist concepts just isn’t progressive however fairly a part of the custom. Having stated that, simply how good is the Daoism in Voice of the Elders?

Ripley manages to work in a little bit of lore from non secular Daoism, together with factor like a quick description of the Three Pure Ones and the martial prowess of the Wu Dang Shan monks. Even the title of the mysterious, alien “Elders” is an efficient choice—that is the what students say was the authentic that means of the title “Laozi”, who is meant to be the writer of the Dao De Jing. On the experiences of the characters, I can’t fault the writer. He does a very good job of explaining the psychological components of “sitting and forgetting” and will get proper some subtleties that an outsider may not. For instance, he mentions the robust emotional responses from those that result in uncontrollable weeping. Within the Temple the place I used to be taught, one of many workers individuals was assigned to supply towels to individuals when this happened—and it did. Even the stuff that outsiders may assume far-fetched—like the key worldwide society—aren’t as odd as you may assume. Certainly, I as soon as met a person who had been taught hung-gar at an early age by a secret society—“the Chinese language Free-Masons“—in Victoria, British Columbia.


You will have observed that I’ve eliminated all of the ads off the weblog. It is because the advert marketplace for small guys like me has just about dried up. That is OK anyway, as a result of I by no means actually was all that comfy with promoting within the first place.

Having stated that, as I method retirement and have added one other “mouth to feed” to my prices, I’m attempting to entry somewhat extra money for my soon-to-be a lot much less revenue. As well as, I now see myself as somebody who’s a member of the “creator class” on the Internet, and I feel I ought to “do my bit” to assist create a tradition the place individuals get used to supporting the individuals who devour the artwork they create. To that finish, I’ve added a Patreon button to the highest of the suitable column. I have been utilizing it on my different weblog and have began getting subscribers. If anybody looks like they achieve from my posts, contemplate subscribing for a buck a month—or no matter you assume greatest. Be happy to purchase a guide or make a one time donation too. Every little thing helps. 

One of many “creatives” that I assist with month-to-month funds articulated one thing about this Patreon subscription mannequin that I believed price passing on. He stated that individuals name issues like Uber and Air BnB a part of an rising “sharing economic system”. That is nonsense, these are simply companies like the rest. However offering issues by Patreon actually is sharing. That is as a result of individuals who can afford to pay assist the alternatives of people that actually can’t pay to learn the content material. That is the distinction between Patreon and a paywall. 

Honest Use copyright provision

The guide is not nearly Daoism, it is usually one thing that particularly units out to be a part of the “Cli-Fi” style. That is an rising literary fashion that integrates local weather grow to be the world that guide’s characters inhabit. One other instance is John Michael Greer‘s Star’s Attain, the place local weather change has melted the ice cap, the Japanese a part of the mid-West United States now experiences a monsoon season, Florida is underneath water, the South West is an uninhabitable desert, and, society is managed by Druid-like priestesses who implement a strict code of legislation that gives for issues like burying alive anybody who will get caught utilizing fossil fuels. Octavia Butler’s “Parable Books” (talked about in my final publish) additionally loosely match into the style.  In that universe, local weather change has broken the USA’s society and strengthened Canada—which now has a militarily-defended wall on its Southern border to maintain out unlawful immigrants.

Within the case of Ripley’s guide, the local weather difficulty serves to create the plot in that the “Elders” are pushed by concern about the way forward for humanity to actively intervene despite the fact that it is not one thing that they’re usually inclined to do. It additionally drives battle by making a motive for shadowy enterprise leaders to fund a marketing campaign of sabotage towards renewable power installations and terrorism towards any people who’re working with the Elders. Since an ideal many environmentalists do get numerous opposition from large enterprise, this can be a completely comprehensible plot system too. Simply in my very own private case, I have been known as a “terrorist” in print, had attorneys threaten to remove my dwelling and life financial savings by lawsuits, obtained loss of life threats over the telephone, and, caught personal investigators snooping round my life. And, it actually is the case that a number of environmentalists have been murdered for organising towards collective suicide.


So whereas it’s true that there’s nothing on this guide that both does violence to varied teachings in Daoism, or stretches credibility to the snapping level (not less than vis-a-vis human society), I do have some quibbles. 

There are alternative ways of understanding what Daoism is all about. And a few individuals put numerous emphasis on issues like “Qi”, “meridians”, “power”, and many others. I can perceive the place all of this comes from, as I’ve skilled the kinds of emotions that individuals describe as “Qi”, felt if “circulate” by my physique, and so forth. It is usually one thing that’s positively a part of the custom. However I’m additionally a contemporary man who has a graduate from a reliable trendy college. And I imagine that numerous these items is simply—for lack of a protracted dialogue which I’ved had in different weblog posts—a lot of “woo-woo” that must be discarded.

I come to issues from a really completely different perspective. My emphasis is on the extra prosaic objective of turning into a “realized man” within the sense of dispelling delusion and gaining knowledge. My first meditation trainer defined this with a narrative. He talked about two disciples who have been speaking about how nice their respective lecturers have been. Considered one of them stated that his trainer might maintain up a brush on one facet of a river and write on a bit of paper somebody held on the opposite facet. The second stated that this was nothing—his trainer managed to eat solely when he was hungry and sleep when he was drained. (These are two abilities that I’ve but to grasp myself.)

I point out this level as a result of as I see it, actual Daoists wouldn’t be secretive or use particular powers, as a substitute, they might be inherently invisible to outdoors society as a result of the overwhelming majority of individuals would not have the classes of thought essential to course of the data that they’re seeing. Let me illustrate with a martial artwork known as capoeira. For these of you who do not know, capoeira is a martial artwork native to Brazil and which contains numerous African dancing and music into it. It actually may be very completely different from the Chinese language or European martial arts. Let me clarify to you the way I see issues when my viewpoint is knowledgeable by the small quantity of Daoism that I’ve realized over my life.


This is a video of “the cash sport” and one thing I feel is known as “the city ritual” (I am removed from realizing a lot about capoeira.) Pay actually shut consideration to the primary minute or so and you’ll discover that there’s a small little bit of folded paper cash on the ground of the health club. Watch how the 2 males undergo their actions on the ground and one the man maneuvers the opposite man away from the cash so he can choose it up together with his enamel.

What has occurred is that there was a strictly strategic competitors between two individuals to achieve entry to a selected location with out making your self susceptible to a counter-attack by your opponent.

Nearly all of the demonstration is one thing known as “the city ritual”. I do not know the way capoeira explains this, nevertheless it appears apparent to me that what is going on is a really concerned train in studying tips on how to adapt to the tempo and stability of one other particular person. As such, it’s very similar to the “push palms” of taijiquan. On reflection, it is sensible {that a} martial artwork that comes with African roots and which is practiced in time to music accompaniment would put an enormous emphasis on tempo.

So what has all of this obtained to do with Daoism and Voice of the Elders? Nicely, I might recommend that if actual “tremendous Daoists” have been to intervene into world society with a view to stop an ecological holocaust they’d use some form of delicate mechanism that bizarre persons are just about oblivious to—like the tempo that capoeira trainer makes use of to win the “cash sport” or exhibit in the course of the “city ritual”.

As an alternative, Voice of the Elders makes use of Daoism as a “again drop” for a reasonably typical “spy thriller” in the identical vein as a Tom Clancy novel. There may be numerous flying world wide. Gangs of mercenaries assault secret bases. Individuals are killed. The plot is developed by specializing in the psychological quirks of particular person legislation enforcement officers. So forth and so forth. 


After all, I am not being notably honest to Greg Ripley. A novel is not a guide of philosophy and if you’re going to write one thing that appeals to most people an writer has to make use of the identical tropes that exist in each different novel within the style. Greg is aware of what these are and performs them like a professional. These embody:

  •  The wealthy benefactor (loosely based mostly on Jackie Chan) who offers the personal airplane that jets individuals from New York to the Daoist Temple in Chinese language hinterland. 
  • The well-trained undercover agent physique guard with a coronary heart of gold who’s assigned to observe over Rohini.
  • The magic mysterious “oriental monk“.
  •  The “good Czar” who understands when all of the petty bureaucrats do not, within the type of the US president. 
  • The magic house bats (ie: the Elders) who can repair all of the world’s issues by intervention.

Certainly, it could possibly be argued that Ripley is solely utilizing the “Dao” of publishing to get his concepts on the market. If he did not use these tropes, then he’d by no means get anybody to publish or learn his guide. 

And that’s the dilemma authors at all times face. How can I give readers what I’ve to supply in a manner that they are going to really need to obtain?  You at all times have to choose between conforming to what the market desires a lot that you need to water down the message you are attempting to make;  or;  being so true to your beliefs that just about nobody is focused on what you need to supply. And having the ability to make this selection already assumes that you’ve got one thing helpful to say and are a adequate author to precise it well—which just about excludes most individuals within the first place. That’s the reason a few years in the past a buddy instructed me “Writing may be very straightforward. You simply smash your head on the keys of your typewriter till the blood comes forth and makes phrases on the web page.”


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