There is something about Taoism that makes it very applicable to modern life and popular culture. Benjamin Hoff created bestselling books with The Tao of Pooh and The Te of Piglet. A movie titled The Big Lebowski centered around a character who follows this way. Dude (yes, that's his name) lives in a rundown bungalow in Venice, California, and is unemployed. His friends and acquaintances, all achievement-oriented Californians, are put off by his ability to live in the present moment without any concern for the future. But like a good Taoist, Dude realizes that his freedom is understanding that we are not in control and never will be.
David Rosen is the author of six other books, including The Tao of Jung and Transforming Depression. A psychiatrist, he is a professor of Jungian psychology at Texas A&M. In this entertaining and illuminating paperback, he shows how Elvis Presley contained in his life some basic contradictions, including poverty and wealth, good and evil, joy and sorrow, dark and light, stillness and movement. Rosen points out that this superstar was on a spiritual quest for meaning most of his life. He loved gospel songs and practiced meditation. Today, of course, his name and image are recognized all over the world. One million pilgrims a year visit Graceland and thousands of impersonators try to approximate his music and style.
Rosen notes: "Elvis, like a giant mirror, reflects our own struggles with forces of good and evil, and creation and destruction. In a real way, when we see Elvis we see ourselves. Symbolizing the battle between the true and false selves in us all, Elvis's huge appeal lies in his power as an archetype — his epic rise and fall captures what is in all of us. Through understanding the Tao of Elvis, we can come to better understand ourselves." The book is structured so that facing pages are filled with thought-provoking quotations from Lao Tzu and other Taoists alongside quotations by or about Elvis from a variety of sources. For instance, in the chapter titled "Pain and Suffering," Den Ming-Dao says: "One of the hardest things to accept is that disaster has nothing to do with you .;. . . Misfortunes happen, and we should face them and act without fear or panic." On the opposite page is a statement by Elvis: "The fans, the fans — they don't know my pain." The challenge for all of us is to take what we can from our troubles and to incorporate them into our healing journeys.
One of the most poignant observations, which can be applied to Elvis, is made by the ancient sage Chuang Tzu:
I looked into your eyes.
I saw you were hemmed in
You are scared to death.
You have got lost, and are trying
To find your way back
To your own true self.
The lesson: We all have to do the inner work of balancing our opposites. It is one of the most important spiritual practices we will ever undertake.