Daoism and Zen have long made trendy, exotic tags to subsume various activities, or non-activities.
Some volumes, like The Tao of Pooh, are pleasantly tongue-in-cheek, with a certain underlying value; and I’m partial to evoking Zen myself in the magic of Rozhdestvensky and Ronnie O’Sullivan. But nothing beats a startling recent letter to the FT:
This preposterous idea had already been expounded in a 2020 review of The crown. So on behalf of the Wisdom of the Mystic East, I feel obliged to state the bleedin’ obvious: if you’re the Queen, then waving and shaking hands while wearing a hat and liking horses really doesn’t count as Being a Daoist. Just because British law prevented Queenie from wielding any influence on government, the fact that inaction was central to her “success” doesn’t make her a Daoist Sage Ruler, FFS. Like, hello?
“The sovereign must be empty of all desire, all thought, and all intentionality […]. A person without qualities, they offer no hold to others, for they are nothing but the mirror reflecting nothingness.” These precepts are oddly reminiscent of the Royal Family’s lifestyle.
OK… so we’ve been queueing overnight in the rain to pay homage to a person without qualities…
Freed from mundane worries (like affording the weekly shop, finding the rent, catching the rush-hour bus to a poorly-paid job, or struggling to book tickets for a budget holiday with the kids), One can put One’s feet up and watch Eastenders over a G&T in the knowledge that One will continue raking it in (helped by a creative accountant and valuable contacts) without having to do a day’s work in One’s entire life.
Sadly, we perhaps need to list some other pastimes that don’t necessarily qualify for the status of “Daoist”:
- Hanging around on a street corner with a fag dangling from your mouth
- Pottering around in the garden (with some noble exceptions)
- Sunbathing on holiday (even while serving as a government minister).
Cf. “I didn’t know we ’ad a king—I thought we were an autonomous collective”. For the Brexit ideal of nothingness, see Stewart Lee.