Modern culture seems to want to conquer and control nature through clear-cutting forests, commercial farming, and strip-mining minerals. This is followed up by burying the resulting trash in a community that charges the least to open a landfill. The destruction of the modern world be hard to avoid, as we’re reading on a smart phone, sitting in air-conditioning, and eating food shipped from 2,000 miles away (on average).
Even with these examples, the modern culture still has the light within the darkness. We’re able to learn, study, and share more than ever. Life expectancy and quality of life is going up for many (not all). Ancients Taoists saw nature as an entity that is to be treated with reverence and respect. They were not on top of nature but sought to live in harmony with it. As part of nature, the human body is also sacred and a mirror of the macrocosm.
Ancient and modern Taoists saw the process of nature as one of returning. The heavens are returning to the earth, earth is returning to the heavens, and the human spirit is seeking to return to its source. The sacred and the profane, the dark and light, material and spiritual, the above and below are moving toward each other to find completion.
Thinking of the negative examples in the first paragraph can seem like the world is going in the wrong direction. However, the Taoist philosophy is that life moves in cycles and eventually maximum darkness will turn back toward the light and visa versa. The cycle always turns, it is only a matter of how long the cycle is; a day, a moon-cycle, a solar cycle, or even the 26,000-year procession of the equinoxes.
The Alchemist’s Tao Te Ching:
Transforming Your Lead Into Gold