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Back to basics

Now that the Chimp interlude has concluded, I want to go back to where this blog started – looking at how the Tao Te Ching could apply to the work of teaching.

Let’s be clear about this – I am not putting forward the TTC as a gospel that speaks The Truth. I am using it as a means of reflecting upon what teaching and learning is. The Taoists believe that underpinning everything that is, ever was and ever will be is a force that they call the Tao. Tao can be translated as The Way. Taoists also believe that the secret to a good life is living in accordance with this Way.

It follows, therefore, that if a teacher teaches in accordance with the Way, they will be doing the best possible job that they can. So, how do you do this? It’s not easy because, as the Tao Te Ching infamously warns us right from the outset, any attempts to explain the Way are futile. It’s a great way to begin a book that sets out to explain the Way!

Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that the Tao Te Ching sets out to try and describe the Way rather than to explain it. So what I am going to try to do over the next eighty-one posts is to rewrite the Tao Te Ching as if Lao Tzu, the supposed author of the text, was writing exclusively for teachers.

Make of it what you will. There is no hidden meaning to anything that is written. They are just words that you might want to turn over again and again in your mind. Because they are words, they must mean something – but only you are going to be able to work out what that something might be. Don’t give up if the meaning seems to be impenetrable. It is there – but you may need to look more carefully than is normal in something like a blogpost. For that reason, I will leave a week between posting each contribution. Remember though, that the meaning is usually pretty straightforward – the Tao Te Ching wasn’t written to be discussed on the sort of TV programmes that nobody watches in the early hours of the morning. The story goes that Lao was asked to write down his teachings by a squaddy who was guarding the gates of the city. Rather than hide the meaning in syncopated rhythms and obscure metaphors, Lao presumably wrote in order to be understood by one and all. So, ponder at leisure, but don’t dive too deep.

You don’t have to be a taoist to play this game – I don’t think I am one. But you do have to be prepared to suspend your disbelief and allow yourself to imagine that there is a way of doing things that can lead to things being done as well as they could be. That’s right – there is a way of doing things that quite simply cannot be bettered. I’m not a taoist, but this seems pretty self evident to me.

If you can be bothered to stick around, I hope that it will be worth your time and effort. Let me know!

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Categories: Tao for teachers
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