There is an old story that once Confucius, Shakyamuni Buddha and Lao-tzu were drinking some peach wine together. Buddha opined that it was bitter, Confucius that it was sour but Lao-tzu, smiling, found it to be sweet.

The wine, of course, represents human life. Taoism is not a philosophy or religion of salvation or of escape, but of appropriately enjoying and dealing with the real life which we have. Taoism finds perfection in imperfection, and taking the eternal and universal viewpoint of the Tao, realises that the good is not to be finally judged by personal or human preference.

Taoism suggests that happiness is found in accepting our situation. There is no reason not to do anything reasonable to better ourselves, of course, but resentment, denial or a negative outlook on life do nothing towards increasing our happiness. Cheerfulness, humour and a freedom from fussing are the attitudes that will stead us best in life.

This is not to say, however, that Taoism is any kind of forced and strained "positive thinking". It is fine to be sad or melancholic from time to time. This is a perfect occasion to read or write sad poems, listen to sad music and complain to our friends, and (in moderation) can add to the overall enjoyment of life. Taoism is also unconcerned with ideas of "advancement" and "success" through some special mode of thinking. A Taoist is only willing to struggle to survive up to a point, after which he is content not to survive, death being a natural concommitent of life. Lesser considerations such as career, popularity, fame and wealth are then obviously highly trivial, snd not such as to cause serious unhappiness.

The Taoist takes his positive pleasures from the enjoyment of love (in all wholesome forms), learning (of interesting and worthwhile things), productive labour (of a kind actually beneficial to human beings), contemplation (whether of the taste of tea, the beauties of art or the moods of Nature), and Taoist practice (of meditation, t'ai-chi ch'üan etc.).

Above all, he or she endeavours to preserve the basic human integrity and innocence with which we are all endowed at birth, and not to be subverted by the concerns of worldliness. The Taoist strives not to want and get, but to enjoy what is already present with gratitude and grace.

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