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Creativity and Taoism

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  • Posted March 18, 2013

    I first learned of ┬┐Creativity and Taoism┬┐ in Raymond Smullyan e

    I first learned of ‘Creativity and Taoism’ in Raymond Smullyan excellent book, ‘The Tao is Silent’ which includes a wonderful annotated bibliography. But unlike this lucid and frequently whimsical book on Taoism, ‘Creativity and Taoism’ is a quite serious, scholarly work that will be tough going for readers not used to working through philosophical arguments or rigorous critiques of poetry and art. The basic thesis, as far as I could tell, was that philosophical Taoism believes there is an inner voice within each of us that is easily masked by the chatter of society and its rules. Although this voice comes from within, it reflects the working of the universe. Hence it is that part of the universe that is within us. If the artist (poet or painter) can sense this voice, which often speaks without words, and if this artist has developed the needed technical skills (e.g., the different brush strokes used in traditional Chinese painting or the use of imagery and symbolism in poems), then truly great art will result. By great art is meant art that transcends the rules and boundaries of any one society or set of values. If this sounds a little esoteric, well, perhaps it is. But the many examples given to support this concept makes one think there is something real here. At least I did, and was glad that I struggled through this tough going book. Chapter 5 was, for me, the most interesting dealing as it did with poetry (my own personal interest). Persons with an interest in painting or calligraphy may fine Chapter 6 more intriguing. Unfortunately, for these last two chapters to be appreciated requires careful study of the preceding 4 chapters which develop the key philosophical ideas of Taoism needed as background for these final works. Persons new to Taoism might start with Benjamin Hoff’s ‘Tao of Pooh’, then move on to Smullyan’s ‘The Tao is Silent’, and then get into Chung-yuan Chang’s ‘Creativity and Taoism. This would not be a particularly difficult ‘way’ to follow and high returns would be likely. 

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