Welcome to Still Mountain’s new blog, a moderated site where people can pose questions, tell stories, add their own perspective regarding the discussion topics, and join into conversations about the world of T’ai Chi. For those of you who are already familiar with essence of T’ai Chi, you are aware that these discussions will be broad and far-sweeping since there isn’t any facet of this world and our lives therein that isn’t imbued with the principles and philosophies of T’ai Chi—the “grand ultimate.” So relax, sit back, and take in the vastness of the horizon.
This blog grew out of what I perceived as a need to have engaging, interesting, and human discussions about what it means to be a person negotiating the act of living in this era. The catalyst was an experience I had over the summer and my reflections on the nature of Facebook. A friend of my son died in a freak accident in July, and in response to this tragedy, I wrote on my Facebook page that I was lighting incense for her and her family. As the day went by and I read the status updates and commentary by others on their Facebook walls, the inherent limitations of a social networking site to do what I wanted to do began to dawn upon me. Not that Facebook is bad; it just wasn’t fulfilling what I perceived as a need to engage each other beyond the surface. To me, Facebook was like to people passing each other on the sidewalk, where each person says “Hi, How are you doing?” without pausing to listen to the others response.
I was seeking a forum where people could comment about the depths of living and not fill out quizzes to see what breed of dog they are or which Michael Jackson song typifies them. I deactivated my Facebook page, not in protest so much as to spend some time “off-line” pondering my intentions behind joining Facebook in the first place. What I discovered was that Facebook functions on a number of levels: it is a pleasant diversion from life the way that watching people playing Frisbee at the park on a summer day is; it is an expedient means to connect to friends and family that live far away; and it is an exceptionally speedy means to zing out messages and announcements.
It wasn’t so much the communication dimension of Facebook that chaffed me, but rather the “pleasant diversion” aspect. One of my Ch’an Buddhist Monk vows is to “abstain from intoxicants.” While I have never been much of a drinker and have avoided drugs, I have a great proclivity to “escape” into my head. Facebook was becoming just such an escape. As Henry David Thoreau, my very first Buddhist teacher, writes, “In proportion as our inward life fails, we go more constantly and desperately to the post-office.” I decided to unplug in order to reconnect with my very real friends and family and refocus my attention upon this world, and then to offer others a way to engage in dialogues about what matters; I wanted to break the pattern of people passing on the street saying “How are you Doing?” without stopping to hear the others person’s answer. I wanted to reassert our humanness in taking the time to say “I am well and this is what I have been pondering. How about you? What do you think?”
All of that said, it may seem ironic that I am now using technology to “reconnect,” but this time, the intention is different. (And for those students of Buddhism reading this, you know that intention is everything.)
The blog is my attempt to offer a forum for discussion on the world but especially T’ai Chi and the philosophies of Buddhism and Taoism that inform it. To dig deeply into what T’ai Chi is beyond a sequence of choreographed moves. My hope is to post regular entries to which people may comment, post questions, and add their own stories. (By the time this actually makes it on-line, I have already written at least the next five entries on paper; sorry, but you will have to wait until next week though. [and yes, I write everything first on paper with a fountain pen. How Ludite!]) I do have another motive as well for these blog entries though: I would like to jump start my writing again and flex those muscles in order to get back into shape to finish my T’ai Chi/Buddhism book, tentatively titled: The Life of Chi: Living Energy/Energizing Life. There may even be excerpts I will post on-line, so watch carefully.
So Welcome to Still Mountain’s Blog. I hope that you visit often and find that these discussions contribute to your day to day life. But for those of you still missing a pithy status update on Facebook:
David Clippinger is washing his hands with great determination since his fountain pen burped navy ink on him while refilling it. But it is worth it.