Day 14 @EDE Class: Taoism and Ecovillage, A Day Off

Sep 9, 2018.

Sunday is the only official day off for this class. But we still gathered in the morning for a class review meeting, as most of the class went sightseeing in Dujiangyan tourism district yesterday and couldn’t do so. Albert was already in class. Some students were joining a little late. A volunteer translator, who sometimes naturally play the role of class leader, led the class meditate. This is unusual but probably needed now, as most of the class can feel a dent in moral due to the offen delayed meal time, confusion in volunteer work arrangement, contentious comments in the WeChat group, all happening more frequently in the last few days. The situation reminded some people what we learned on Day 3 about the 4 stages of building community (below). They say that we just got to stage 2.

  1. Pseudo-community
  2. Chaos
  3. Emptiness
  4. Authentic community

However, there are always people stepping up where there is a need. I talked to a few students. They also see the minor conflicts in the group an opportunity to practice building cohesive community.

In the review session, Albert asked what we have learned from the past week. Many students and myself shared thoughts. At the end, albert read a pray text of indigenous Americans which reminds human being of what we have received from the selfless nature and invites consensus and gratitude. Did that help us see the pettiness of inner-group conflicts here? I hope so.

between Taoism and Ecovillage

Some students in the class are more familiar with Chinese traditional philosophy, particularly Taoism. They see the concepts and theories of ecovillage and permaculture from the lense of Taoism. (I also mentioned in Day 1 blog that “The harmony between nature and human beings (“天人合一”) is the centerpiece of this ancient Chinese philosophy. ” ) Before going on, I have to admit that I am far from being a good student of Taoism (or Confucianism), YET 🙂 I can be criticized that my thought on Taoism is shallow and wrong, without great familiarity with Taoism literature and philosophy. That can be fair criticism.

So I would propose a question, rather than making a statement – could it be possible that our understanding of the reality of this world offers a live interpretation to the ancient, extremely concise clauses of Tao Te Ching (the classic text of Taoism), and not the other way around, i.e. the latter is timelessly clear to explain reality? As metaphor is a main way of arguments in the text, and as the original context and thought process is not available, I often observe mental gymnastic, if not mental leap, when people use Taoism theories to explain reality.

Then what is the implication of associating Taoism with Ecovillage? Among many possible explanations, Tao takes a humble view regarding the role of human being in the universe, in that we should observe, respect and follow the rules of nature. And another one, we are happy to find in new things the continuity of what we already believe 🙂

“In China, …”,  “In US, …”, “In Germany, …”

Cross cultural exchange is one of the benefits of having classes taught by foreign teachers. I experienced such exchange a lot through the years living in US, travelling in Europe, and now organizing an international book club in Hangzhou, China. I noticed it’s common across culture that people offer a perspective that sounds representative for their native country or culture. Often the talk starts with phrases like “In China, …”, “In US, …”, “In Germany, …” etc. I once heard someone from an African country said “In Africa, …” (for the 54 countries in the continent!) Such general statements risk being overgeneralizing 🙂 For example, “In China, it’s difficult to develop an ecovillage because there is no private land ownership”. Well, first of all, is the task easier in other countries simply because there is private land ownership? What about the situation when policy incentives meet local initiatives, things ended up happen quickly and even in a hurry?

Life here

It rained a lot for the last two days and there is a sharp temperature drop. Several people in the class unfortunately caught cold, including our teacher, Albert. This morning, I saw him using cloth handkerchief every few minutes to manage his running nose. Later in the afternoon, he eventually resorted to paper tissue. (Sorry, Albert! I think you are already very environmentally responsible.) Some students in the kitchen made a big pot of ginger soup with brown sugar for Albert. According to traditional Chinese medicine, it helps warm up your body, thus supports immune system.

After the class review in the morning, most stayed in training center for a “homemade” lunch. In the afternoon, some students went to a nearby guesthouse in a farm which is famous for its idyllic environment and artistic interior design. Some who stayed in the center watched a movie with the projector in the classroom. Albert, a couple other students and I occupied a long table in a meeting room, doing study or work.

2 thoughts on “Day 14 @EDE Class: Taoism and Ecovillage, A Day Off

  1. wonderful to read your blog, after being introduced to it by Albert Bates on The Great Challenge blogspot. I enjoy your mix of everyday and sublime comments, eg cloth vs paper tissues and Modern vs Taoist themes.


    1. Thank you, Ian. Yes, on Modern vs Taoist, I think I will revisit the theme as I continue to encounter people drawing Taoism or other traditional Chinese philosophy to interpret new knowledge and practices introduced from the west.


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