Lao Tzu’s Soul in a Bottle – A Prelude (The Sage and the Scarecrow)

Project Summary: The following is the prelude from my 2004 novel “The Sage and the Scarecrow”. At the moment, I am revising the chapters from this book into 3-4 page short stories for posting on my blogs and in literary magazines.

The Sage and the Scarecrow by Daniel Clausen

The Novel in Short: Six months after his father has died from cancer, Pierce finds himself in a state of anxiety and crisis. The book follows Pierce through a journey to find his best friend and the only person he thinks can “cure” him.

Thinking about Lao Tzu helps me understand my own situation: why I’m writing these words to you, why I feel the need to connect to someone else.

The introduction of the Tao Teh Ching says that Lao Tzu was a librarian during the Warring States period at a library in the Chou capital, and that the book was his way of expressing the accumulated lessons he’d learned throughout his lifetime, regarding such subjects as how a state should be run, human psychology, metaphysics, creation, and so forth. The book roughly translated means The Way and its Virtue. I suppose it’s a story about a general way and a general virtue. But I can’t help thinking about the book as something lonely and personal.

When I think about Lao Tzu writing these words carefully on ancient scrolls or pieces of silk paper, or whatever was the way of writing back then, it helps me understand why I’m writing these words to you. The lonely spaces and places of our existence compel us to search out others, whether it be by words or some other means.

Sometimes I think of Lao Tzu alone in a library working on this scroll, as if he could put his soul in a bottle and cast it out to sea. The bottle would drift and drift, and then finally the right person would find it years later. Magical properties of the bottle would draw it to the right person at the right time in a way that would heal and redeem that person.

Philosophy and wish fulfillment are sometimes so close that I think any philosophy is really nothing more than the expression of a desire.

Nothing is really solved, but the longing for solutions and the creative energies that produce them fabricate things called solutions that just create more longing. They fill bottles upon bottles of human existence that float in a sea. We hope that a magical property exists that will attract the right person…

The accumulation of these bottles creates something not quite wisdom. But somehow in the dark ocean of our existence they light a kind way. Who can say if this way is virtuous or not in the end?
A girl named Jennifer gave me the Tao Teh Ching. Once upon a time, she was my best friend. But what she didn’t know was that she was the best of us, of everyone.

How can I be sure? I follow the bottles of human existence.

This story is about her and me, and for this reason the book has special importance; although this story is also about other things: human psychology, how a state should be run, the impossibility of love, (no metaphysics), the problem of existence, but mostly it’s about her and me, and my love for her.

On page ninety-one the Tao Teh Ching says: “Thus, an excessive love for anything will cost you dear in the end.” A homeless man who claimed to have a doctorate in philosophy once told me something very similar.

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