Lifestyle Paradox

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by Ben Huot

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One of my earlier writings is a book I wrote about psychology. I realized then that not only are there people with opposite problems, but also that they have poor self knowledge specifically with regard to this. Specifically that some people’s problem is that they work too much and for others they are too lazy.

The key to dealing with this is realizing that we do not have the perspective to diagnose ourselves. The busy think they should be busier and those who don’t care think they care too much. You will get a more useful direction from people close to you.

So keep that in mind when talking about getting burned out and how to avoid it. Some of the things I advise may be the exact opposite of what some people need to do. I am writing for the workaholic type A personality.

I spent about 12 years independently studying Asian and European philosophy and religion. I was attempting to find a way to make Christianity more authentic. I attempted to do this by seeing religion from an Asian and African perspective.

One of the big surprises to me, late in my studies, was that Christianity has always been a world religion. Early Christianity was actually centered (population wise) in what is now Iraq. This church was sometimes referred to as the Church in Babylon. This church literally was headquartered there as it was the capitol of the Persian Empire. This lasted for the entire first millennium of church history.

One of the authors I read on this topic found this out by measuring how many church leaders there were and knowing how many people this would make in their congregations. Then he derived the total population of Christians based on this formulaic way they divided up the members of the Church of the East (East Syriac).

Another thing I found out in my studies early on is that Philosophical Taoism (the Zen in Zen Buddhism) and Christian Existentialism were at the heart of the Gospel. This was also in a way that was compatible with a literal understanding of the fundamentals of the Bible.

The main idea of Philosophical Taoism as it evolved over time in Chinese history was its yin and yang relationship with Confucianism. When the Jesuit Catholic Priests first brought the Gospel to China on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church, they quickly synchronized this with Confucianism, but did not do so with Taoism.

Part of this is a confusion made by cultural misunderstandings and the fact that there are two entirely different forms of Taoism. Originally, Philosophical Taoism came from the ideas of the I Ching, with the religious elements removed. Later, Religious Taoism evolved into a form of elaborate traditional Chinese folk religion or a form of animism (shamanism).

There was in China, like in many countries, state belief systems and there were also folk traditions of the general population of peasants. When you study Traditional Chinese Philosophy, you usually study pure philosophy without any religious elements. But most people, who were not in the leadership, practiced the Traditional Chinese Religion.

So the main reason for my interest in Chinese philosophy is that I am, in ancient Chinese terms, a Confucian by temperament, in that I am a type A workaholic personality. Philosophical Taoism evolved into a private and non political way of expressing feelings and creating artwork and literature for the ruling class. Confucianism never dealt with anything outside of public ceremonies and manners.

The traditional Chinese emperor controlled all land and assets in China and selected the officials who would administrate it on their behalf. They did this by a way of an imperial examination in which they wrote poetry to promote Confucian ideals.

So when some scholars scored low or failed their imperial exam, they often retreated into the rural areas to live like monks. They then adopted Taoism as a kind of counter culture movement, but they were never political about it.

Some of the main ideas of Philosophical Taoism are: being unimportant in social status, avoiding politics or hierarchy of any kind, skepticism, a belief of evil coming from culture rather than nature, and a very vague understanding of their being supernatural aspects to life. Basically Taoism was for those burned out Confucian scholar officials.

Tai Chi, Acupuncture, Kung Fu, tea ceremonies, meditation, calligraphy, and poetry are all applications of Philosophical Taoism. If you practice any of these, you are using the concept of Qi, which is the basis for any of these traditional Chinese practices and philosophies. Qi is the fundamental building block of both matter and spirit. It is what joins together the body and mind. Its relationship to religion is like science is in our modern culture.