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Tao of Everything

CHINESE PHILOSOPHERS REFERRED TO THE ORGANIC PROCESSION OF EVENTS as the Tao or “the Way,” and extolled the art of living in harmony with nature. Over the course of his career, analyst David Rosen has made a study of this philosophy. In The Tao of Jung  (1996), he explored Jung ’s fascination with the I Ching, a Chinese oracle based on the developmental patterns inherent in nature. As the I Ching counsels, “The wise man knows what is in the seed.” In sympathy with Taoist philosophers, Jung suggested that the Self unfolds much in the same way an oak tree emerges from an acorn.

In a lavishly illustrated book, The Tao of  Elvis (2012), Rosen picked up this theme again. Best-selling novelist Sue Monk Kidd has compared The Tao of Elvis, which contains symbols and icons from the singer’s favorite costumes, to an illuminated manuscript1—though one with a decidedly pop art twist. This book opens with quote from Chinese sage LaoTzu—“The Tao is great, the king is also great”—and one from the King himself —“I’m a soul, a spirit, a force”—then considers how celebrities live out mythic themes of death and resurrection (thus, the many Elvis sightings since the singer’s sad demise).

Clouds and More Clouds continues the thread, revealing how the Tao has appeared inRosen’s life. R. H. Blyth once referred to haiku as “humanized nature.” For poets in this tradition, there is no separation between heaven and earth, the inner and the outer world. Many of the poems in Clouds  are about fleeting transformations: a changing sky, the sudden onset of rain, the startle-reflex of a deer, a spring  flower revealing itself in a full crimson blush. Others convey the larger sweep of time. Together the poems distill the high points of Rosen’s life as healer, son, father, lover, and husband, reframing the hero’s journey that has formed the heart of theWestern narrative since Homer. In this revision, “doing ” is transformed into “being.” Our modern-day Odysseus trades in his oar for a winnowing fan and is content to lie down in the dun-colored fields and feel the warm sun on his back. In a subliminal and wonderfully subversive way,Rosen urges us to abandon the heroic quest, echoing what Jung learned through his dreams and visions: At a certain point, we must consciously  “kill the hero” and take our place within the flow of ordinary life.

Review of David Rosen, Clouds and More Clouds, illustrated by Alec Formatin Shirley, Lily Pool Press, Northfield, MA. 2013

Read more about haiku and the inner life