“…The gift of the Taoist scholars, the first great creative writers of China, was a poetic and literary one––as well as philosophical.” –Raymond Van Over, Taoist Tales
- It articulated a new approach to humanity’s understanding––or perhaps freedom from the need to understand––its self-perpetuating condition.
- It employed language that was simultaneously eloquent and simple.
- It has over the centuries accumulated a body of commentaries regarding its origins and meanings.
- It was written by someone believed to have lived in accordance with what he wrote.
The genesis of the philosophy is most often attributed to Tzu (604 B.C.–531 B.C.) but there are those who hold that his was an introductory exposition later developed by several more influential thinkers, including a devoted follower named Chuang Tzu (369 B.C.– 286 B.C.).
In Mentor Books’ 1973 edition of Taoist Tales, edited by Raymond Van Over, the word Tao is defined “in its original sense” as “the Way or Path along which all things move, and is a concept incorporated by all the philosophical schools of China and will be frequently found in Chinese literature.” The editor further described the Tao as the “underlying dynamic of all nature.” It is, in short, that which gives cohesion and harmony as well as disturbance and continued progression to humanity’s experience of individual and collective existences. It is less a product of intellectual calculation than it is a process of cultivating a sense of awareness of, and unity with, that underlying dynamic.
A Journey of 93 Million Miles
For the sake of clarity, I will point out here that this blog is not an offering of lessons in Taoism. There are more than enough books and qualified instructors to provide that. It is, instead, an exploration of those ways which the nature of rainbows can reflect certain principles of the philosophy and it is intended to propose metaphysical considerations of its own based on meditations upon that nature.
Rainbows, for example, form after sunlight makes a journey of 93 million miles to connect with raindrops in the earth’s atmosphere and then pass through them, producing a magnified chromatic effect that has often been compared to what happens when light passes through a prism. The human eye and brain perceive the resulting bands of arcing colors, all huddled together like dancers striking a beautiful breathless painted pose, as a rainbow. Or sometimes as multiple rainbows.
The forces that work together to create this shimmering wonder––such as gravity, heat, speed, friction, pressure, and time–– are very powerful but do not end in cataclysmic destruction when combined and balanced under the proper natural conditions. Though they do in fact often appear following storms that make one feel as if the world is ending, the phenomenon is one which for eons has been looked upon as a symbol of hope, grace, and endurance.
They are a part of the elusive and yet ever-present Way, or the Tao, of the universe, that can banish despair with their unexpected appearance or challenge rationality with their seemingly inspired whimsicality. Sustained meditations upon their hidden and revealed ways do imply some kind of odd mystical camaraderie with the literary tomes and philosophical teachings of the Tao that have come down to us through the ages. But it is possible such meditations might offer even more.