Taoism/Daoism and concept(s) of darkness
Okay, I know that certainly I need to read more about this, and I know that I have enough resources to get started now. The frustrating thing is wanting to talk about things *before* having acquired the knowledge. It is very, very frustrating.
I have recently acquired a translation of the Tao Te Ching/Dao De Jing by Red Pine. This is a religious translation, not a primarily academic one. That is, while giving selected commentaries on each (page? codice? chapter? I don't know the right word, but if you've seen the Dao De Jing you know it's divided up among many short poems), and while being translated into English from multiple copies of the same text, which often differ in their (Chinese) spellings and hence, meanings (as words romanized into the same spelling have different meanings depending on the original character used*) -- it's not being presented as, say, a book on good rulership, as I've seen it presented, before; and as Red Pine mentions it's been presented by academics, before.
I've begun reading through this, and what struck me from the beginning is Red Pine's acknowledgment that there was something going on here between the interplay of "darkness" and "light", with (he says) Lao Tzu/Laozi ("Old Master") choosing the lunar and the dark over the light. This is because, he says, the dark can always become light. Yin is always changing into Yang, and Yang into Yin. Yin (femininity, lunar, darkness, passivity; though represented by the color white [for bones, and likely also for the moon]) always has the potentiality of rebirth; of changing into Yang; but Yang (masculinity, strength, solar, forthrightness; represented by black), like the full moon, has no where to go but to eventually decay (turning to Yin -- potentiality).
I was skeptical of this book at first, because in a lot of these translated texts -- and Red Pine has written an entire book elucidating the Heart Sutra (from Buddhism), which itself only covers two tiny pages -- the translators use charged terms that probably don't mean the same thing in English as they do in Chinese. I know for a fact that Buddhist lexicon does not translate into English accurately, more than into a set of terms which meanings look obvious enough; but which reveal, after extended study, that they don't mean what they look like they mean. So I'm...cautious that what he's saying may not actually be what I'm reading.
I also know that this has historically happened in at least one other major case: the transmission of Buddhism from India to China. The meaning and implications of at least one core term (Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit[?]: "sunyata"), changed. The meaning of sunyata, as translated into English, is "emptiness"; however, this *is* a core teaching, and the word "emptiness" *is* misleading, because it doesn't really mean what it looks like it means. When sunyata was translated into Chinese, the resultant word, which I can't find now -- my nearest note suggests the term is "wu" (as in "wu wei"), translated in English as "Void" -- implied that Void had an ontological existence (that is, that Void *was something that could be named*), as versus the original "sunyata", which I know isn't the same concept, but which I don't know enough about, to be able to definitively elucidate.
As close as I can come to the actual meaning, is that as everything originates interdependently (nothing comes into being without the input of something else), there is no inherent identity to any phenomena or object or being, thus things are said to be "sunya" (empty) -- however, "sunyata" (emptiness) does not imply that phenomena do not exist, or that they are worthless, only that they interdependently originate, and change is the fundamental nature of existence.
From my notes, I'm seeing that "wu" implies, "undifferentiated," not "nonbeing," and what I'm also seeing in comparison to the above is that it could be said that Chinese thinkers, in adapting Indian Buddhism to Chinese modes of thought, might not have gotten (or accepted) the exact meaning of sunyata.
And as is commonly known, Daoism holds that the present world unfolded from undifferentiated potentiality. Void, as the First Cause, becomes Yin and Yang; Yin and Yang combine into more-complex forms, as diagrammed in the Eight Trigrams that the I Ching/Yi Jing ("Book of Changes") is based on, with each trigram forming half of a hexagram, which has its own divinatory meaning...which I don't understand, yet.
Anyhow. One of my points is that when Red Pine is going and talking about "darkness," it probably isn't the same concept of "darkness" held by most in the U.S.
My second point is that maybe my own concept of "darkness," as a necessary complement and balance to "light", is more similar to the concept of "darkness" that he's using, than is the concept of "darkness" held by most in the U.S. I mean, given that I grew up in an Asian-American subculture, and was exposed to media where "darkness" was understandable given the circumstances -- not this kind of "we're evil for no good reason at all, except [EDIT: other people] need someone to fight against, and not question [EDIT: themselves when they're fighting against us]," that I've seen from a lot of Western media. Which, by the way, seems to factor into a mindset where people need reassurance that the others they're victimizing deserve it and are beyond redemption (hence they can feel righteous about taking action against them), as versus a mindset where people understand that those who are poorly adjusted are probably living in pain, and if you can remedy the pain, you are a good way to remedying the maladjusted behavior. Without, you know, killing or imprisoning the person.
Anyone want to talk about Daoism? ;D
*I'm not sure what is going on here with the tonality of the words (tonality differentiates some words from others); I'm not that advanced yet.