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What is opinion? Opinion is a fixed idea about a subject. It is an attitude or approach. When inquiry has finished and a conclusion reached, opinions are often formed.
Opinions are not the taijiquan way; in Taoism, there is always the possibility of change. Life is not static and cannot be held in place by an idea, opinion, philosophy or perspective.
Change is continual and we must move with that change. If we choose not to change, we are resisting what is happening and that is not taijiquan.
Opinion is not truth; we must put
aside opinions to find truth. There are innumerable opinions, but truth is
not of this or of that group. For the understanding of truth, all ideas,
conclusions, opinions, must drop away as the withered leaves fall from a
tree. Truth is not to be found in books, in knowledge, in experience. If you
are seeking opinions, you will find none here.
Can you understand anything if you have already made up your mind about it, or if you repeat the conclusions of another? To find the truth of this matter, must we not come to it afresh, with a mind that is not clouded by prejudice? Which is more important, to be free from conclusions, prejudices, or to speculate about some abstraction? Is it not more important to find the truth than to squabble about what truth is? An opinion as to what truth is, is not truth. To see the false as the false is to begin to understand it, is it not? How can we see either the true or the false if our minds are entrenched in tradition, in words and explanations? If the mind is tethered to a belief, how can it go far? To journey far, the mind must be free. Freedom is not something to be gained at the end of long endeavour, it must be at the very beginning of the journey.
Modern culture encourages people to cultivate opinions and share their views and options. Politics is a perfect example of this.
People love to speculate about how best to do things.
But what happens when you encounter something that you fundamentally do not and cannot possibly understand? What value do your opinions have then?
Opinions about taijiquan
If a student had any worthwhile insights or comprehension of taijiquan, they would be teaching a class, not attending one. In actual reality, most taijiquan students in the world are beginners.
Consider: on what basis is the new starter assessing the taijiquan? How are they measuring the skills? What criteria are being applied? Which qualities do they consider to be valuable?
A taijiquan teacher offers their lesson and the student interprets the teaching in terms of themselves. They decide what to listen to. What to ignore. What to prioritise.
This is foolish. It actively impedes learning. How can a student - with no grasp of the curriculum - possibly determine what is important and what is not?
Hearing what you want to hear...
Sometimes people ignore what they don't agree with or don't want to listen to. This is naive. And ignorant.
A good example is Dr Michael Greger (author of How Not To Die) recommends 90 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every day. How many people read Dr Greger's expert advice and immediately dismiss it?
Are you personally a expert?
It is wise to consider the origin of Dr Greger's advice. He's not saying it to be bossy or unreasonable. His insight is the outcome of many years of professional research, exploration and study.
His suggestion echoes what three doctors wrote in The Okinawa Program after an exhaustive 25 years of study and practical research.
Now ask yourself a single important question: given that four doctors are giving professional advice backed up by many years of experience, who are you to simply dismiss it? And on what grounds?
Have you any professional, provable basis to debunk these doctors?
The student has
nothing to offer but an absolute willingness to follow the teacher's
instructions and direction without question or comments or personal
Once the planet earth was believed to be flat and people were killed for suggesting otherwise. Now, the idea is considered ridiculous.
If five people are served a meal and one person does not like the food, how many people are affected?
Just the one. That lone individual did not like the food. This is commonplace. Tastes, values and opinions are entirely subjective, and stem from a wide variety of influences.
What you personally like or dislike does not especially affect other people. Unless you choose to impose it upon them. In the example given above:
- a lone individual could order a different meal next time round
- or they could seek to turn their own dislike into something public
Chocolate is not good or bad. It just is. Rain is rain. Day is day. An apple is an apple. Whether you like it or not is your concern. Society is made up of people.
And people have applied their likes/dislikes to everything they can.
Right or wrong?
If you perform taijiquan in the appropriate manner, it is neither right or wrong. It is simply taijiquan. Should you make mistakes, it would not be wrong. It would not be taijiquan.
See the difference? If you bake a cake and it comes out as a charred lump of burned inedible substance, then it is not a wrong cake. It is not a cake at all.
Thinking is the product of memory, experience, conditioning and desire. You plot, plan, compare, extrapolate. You seek to shape reality to suit your own agenda.
But does that mean that you are right?
Seeing the truth
Taoism is about seeing, not about thinking. Seeing entails being aware of what is. No bias. The rain is simply rain. It is not good or bad. It is not necessary to like or dislike it.
What you think is your affair. Does it extend to reality? If you were to die right now, surely the world will continue?
Seeking to impose your own beliefs concerning right and wrong upon the world is common. Everyone does it. But does that mean that what you think matters?
If an opinion is widely held, it may be legitimised by the state. It becomes law. Consider personal relationships, ownership, individual conduct - these are all subject to the law.
By making an opinion the property of the state, the like/dislike or good/bad is given greater significance.
It means more. It is official. Ignoring it may have major consequences. But it is still only an opinion.
Attributing an opinion to God is the most powerful way of legitimising a particular value. God represents the highest authority, the divine perception...
This takes like/dislike and good/bad out of the hands of mere petty mortals and makes it the concern of a higher being. Humans can be absolved of responsibility. Who can argue with God?
As we proceed through life, we don't really grow-up. Adults are becoming increasingly immature; consider: mobile phones, sports utility vehicles, consumer lifestyles and the quest for novelty...
'Growing-up' is a questionable concept; as it suggests maturity toward wisdom and insight; a blossoming in old age.
There was once a time in the world when 'elders' were respected and senior citizens possessed agile minds and valuable experience.
In these times of television, politics, mass media gossip, pollution, war, greed, debt, boredom and depression - the wisdom of the Ancients is no longer apparent.
Our forefathers have left a world in crisis and a population as restless as children.
Force only increases resistance.
Taijiquan people are like the small child.
We ignore the categories established by the rational mind and the ego.
We do not care if the person is black or white, rich or poor, liberal or conservative, Christian or Muslim, capitalist or communist.
We ignore all these walls of separation.
As people age, they often become rigid and unyielding. Opinions provide the illusion of security; the myth that the world will remain the same. Tai chi encourages you to remain flexible, sensitive and receptive to change.
What is the actual value of an opinion? What benefit does it bring? What purpose does it serve?
Taoism offers the analogy of water; fluid, changing, adaptive, mobile... If your mind continues to learn, change, contemplate and reconsider - it stays young as you grow older.
Meditation is concerned with seeing the world as it is. Not how you think it is or want it to be.
We are simply aspects of the whole - reality encompasses us - it does not revolve around us. Tai chi is designed to root your mind in reality and end conscious thought.
Increased awareness and feeling bring you closer to reality. Instead of imposing your opinion upon what you encounter, you remain open and move in relationship with what is happening.
Opinion is the act of standing still and refusing to change. It simply serves no purpose.
18 April 1995
Last updated 29 April 2021