DaoUSA Chinese New Year 2024
By Dr. David B. Axelrod, Church Elder
In February, 2024, if we count on our calendar from 2697 B.C., a year when
the Yellow Emperor is traditionally acknowledged as the first king of China,
when the won ton drops, we can all shout:
HAPPY NEW YEAR, 4721!
What wisdom might I put in a New Year’s column that could help you? If this is the year of the dragon, between wars and climate change, it can feel as if the world is already breathing smoke and fire.
I’m writing to you as a DaoUSA church elder. I am a secular Daoist on our board of directors. That means I need not change personal beliefs or adopt any single religion. I simply listen to reason. Daoism is open-minded enough to listen and learn from many sources. The Dao is omnipotent and Chi is everywhere if we are open to it. My New Year wish is that you live peacefully but be on guard.
If you feel safe, you may need to switch to a new stance: Be neither smug nor pretend to be innocent. You are not so entitled as to think that bad things only happen to bad people. Are you a fellow Daoist or fellow American citizen? If so, are we not complicit in the bombs that are dropping? What are we doing to stop the wars or correct the prejudicial miscarriage of justice? What are we doing about the displacement and even murder of many people?
There is an adage that advises, “if you are not outraged, you are not paying attention.” I wish I could attribute that caution to Lao Tsu, but The Way and Its Power, though it advises leaders how to rule their country, coaches more nuanced ways to rule than by being outraged. Lao Tsu does say “we should correct our own mistakes and do what we need to create a harmonious life. It is not enough to demand things of others.” Our own abbot, Tseng Yun-Xiang, encourages us to find our Master Within.
To be a Daoist, to live in harmony with nature, we should be as vigilant as any creature that loves life. Yes, humans can be paranoid. We deal with abstract thoughts—things not there in the moment where we stand. I don’t know many deer that construct conspiracy theories. For a deer, there is either the scent or sight of a wolf, or there is none.
I know I can be fooled, but my advice is that we should be very careful this coming year. We are living in dangerous times. But the danger I know—the facts underpinning my world-view—are as real as the fact that the United States of America, spends X billions of dollars a year on national defense. We have an extensive anti-terrorism division, and a Homeland Security Department—all paradoxically as we continue to spend billions more to support the bombing (murder) of civilians abroad.
Which brings me back to my offering you some wisdom and good wishes for the new year. Love and protect those you love. You can, for a fact, love more and do real, demonstrable—not abstract or theoretical good. Treat each other nicely. Happy New Year.