Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

The time is out of joint.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Harry Potter vs. Voldemort – so what?

It might be blasphemy, but I have trouble appreciating the Harry Potter stories. I might not even know what I'm talking about, because I only managed to read something like a hundred pages of the first book – the rest is just what I've seen in the movies. That's fine with me.

The essay has been moved to my personal website:

Harry Potter vs. Voldemort – so what?

Friday, December 23, 2011

What's With the Beard?

Soon, Santa Claus will sneak down the chimney with presents to all good children, with a jolly “Ho, ho, ho!” That's all fine. But what's with that big white beard?

The essay has been moved to my personal website:

What's With the Beard?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Believers Don't Believe

”I'm a believer,” The Monkees sang in 1966. They meant a believer in love, but mostly the term is used for and by religious people, sticking to convictions that common sense dismisses. But the term is a paradox. The use of it reveals a lack of belief.

The essay has been moved to my personal website:

Believers Don't Believe

Monday, December 19, 2011

No Hit Song Without Words

A British research team presents a formula they claim predicts what songs will be hits. They use a bunch of parameters, but ignore one of the top components of a song: the lyrics.

The essay has been moved to my personal website:

No Hit Song Without Words

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Burlesque Breakfast of Champions

Finally, I got to see the 1999 movie Breakfast of Champions, based on Kurt Vonnegut's novel. I had avoided doing so earlier, afraid of being disappointed. Well, I was. They turned the wonderfully absurd novel into a tiresome burlesque.

The essay has been moved to my personal website:

Burlesque Breakfast of Champions

Friday, December 16, 2011

Big Bang and God Are the Same

Creationists sneer at the Big Bang theory. Astrophysicists exclude God from their equation. But it's all the same, meeting the same paradox. They differ only in names. None answers the question.

The essay has been moved to my personal website:

Big Bang and God Are the Same

Friday, December 9, 2011

Economy Is Not a Science

On Saturday, December 10, this year's Nobel Prize laureates will receive their prizes from the Swedish king. Among those are two winners of the Economy Prize, which is not a real Nobel Prize – fittingly, since it's not a real science.

The essay has been moved to my personal website:

Economy Is Not a Science

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Music's Immune to Parody

The brilliant Tim Minchin is armed with a grand piano in his stand-up comedy. His monologue consists of a series of songs, filled with satire. So, his music is parody, but it doesn't matter. It's still sweet, sweet music.

The essay has been moved to my personal website:

Music Is Immune to Parody

Sunday, November 27, 2011

With One Person I Never Got Bored

We come to this world, don't ask me where from, and we leave it after dancing on it for a while, don't ask me where to. But some of us are otherworldly all through. I had the fortune to get to know one of them: Charlotte Zutrauen, who passed away this spring after more than a century on the planet.

The essay has been moved to my personal website:

With One Person I Never Got Bored

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Time Flies Past a Building

This year I revisited Monaco after almost 40 years. Oh, how time flies! I didn't remember much more from my first visit than the odd decorative patterns on the facade of a house.

I took the above photo of the Monaco house in 1972, and the below photos on my revisit in late October, 2011. Actually, it was right in front of my hotel. New buildings have appeared around it, but that funny house stays the same.

The pattern on it looks like wallpaper, doesn't it? As if someone had turned the whole house inside out.

Apart from that I rediscovered that Monaco is a ridiculously expensive place to be. The pyramid of have and have not remains. It is older than the actual pyramids and more solid than any building. And not that funny.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Poodle Bites

Recently, I was in Romania for an aikido seminar. That was my first visit to the country, and a delightful one. Something that I found odd was the great number of stray dogs in the streets, running free and somehow finding their way to survive and reproduce.

The essay has been moved to my personal website:

The Poodle Bites

Monday, September 12, 2011

My Table Confirms Plato

I found an old table that I couldn't resist buying, although I don't have much room for it. This table illustrates Plato's theory about innate knowledge and the eternal soul. Not bad for a piece of furniture.

In the dialogue Meno Socrates helps a slave boy find out how to double the area of a square, by making its diagonal the side of the bigger square. Although the slave boy has no previous knowledge of geometry, he soon succeeds.

To Socrates, this proves that the boy must have had this knowledge from the beginning, even before he was born. This, Socrates argues, must be true for all knowledge and all men. We only have to recollect it. He continues:

“And if the truth of all things always existed in the soul, then the soul is immortal. Wherefore be of good cheer, and try to recollect what you do not know, or rather what you do not remember.”

Not everyone would agree with his conclusions, but Plato has a point: knowledge would be impossible without the ability to reach it, and that's human nature. It might not be eternal, but its seed precedes the birth of the body. Plato linked this prior ability to the soul, whereas modern science houses it in the gene.

My table makes no statement about either genetics or the imortality of the soul, but it joins the slave boy's struggle with the squares, as can be seen on the animation above. It transforms from one square to another with twice the area. Plato would approve.

But would he equip the table with an eternal soul?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Much more than CMYK and RGB

Recently, I posted a few of my drawings. Now it's time for a couple of oil paintings. They are from the 1990's. Unfortunately, I rarely find the time for this passion.

Few things are as fascinating and satisfying as oil painting. The colors are marvelous, so much richer than the printed CMYK or even modern computer monitor RGB. They have depth.

Also, their thickness and slight resistance when brushed onto the canvas increase the sensation. The strokes of the brush remain visible. In that way, it's both painting and sculpture, at least relief.

One has to have patience, because the oil colors dry very slowly. Actually they never do completely, and that's why they keep their shine and shape for hundreds of years.

These two paintings are simple studies, nothing fancy. A torso and a portrait. I was just having fun with the brush's dance on the canvas. I long for more of that fun.

(Click on the images to see them enlarged.)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Choose Your Weapons

In the arts, as well as at war, it's important to choose your weapons well. I wonder about musicians who go for the most unwieldy instruments. What were they thinking?

The essay has been moved to my personal website:

Choose Your Weapons

Friday, September 2, 2011

Painstaking Process

I continue the theme of drawings, but this time with something I made rather recently. It's a video of me making a drawing, and the changes it goes through before completion.

Drawings and paintings, they don't jump out suddenly in a fixed form. It's a process, more often than not a painstaking one. Otherwise the finished pictures will not catch the eyes of the spectators.

It's the same when writing a story. It has to be edited again and again, before its writer is satisfied. Unlike, for example, building a house, the story is erected, torn down, and erected again. Its architecture is changed fundamentally, over and over, before it reaches a shape in which it can rest.

Surely, a musician would say the same, whether it's a composer or a performer. The latter also has to chew through every note and syllable, in search of the way to perform the song that becomes unquestionably natural, self-evident, when reached.

So, here are five minutes of the struggle that is the creative process. I wouldn't say that it ends with a masterpiece, far from it, but I can safely say that the birth of a masterpiece is similarly painstaking.

More of my drawings can be seen on my FaceBook account, and more of my artwork on my website.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Pen of My Youth

Facial landscape.
Memory Lane. I went through some old sketch pads, taking photos or scanning (depending on size) a number of drawings. Here are some of the drawings I made in the 1970's, when I was around 20 years old. Oh, how I'd love to have time for doing more of it!
Renaissance lady.

Click on the images to see them enlarged.

More of my drawings can be seen on my FaceBook account, and more of my artwork on my website.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Disappearing Skyscraper

I mentioned Turning Torso, the Malmö skyscraper, in my previous blog post. The building intrigues me, so I stare at it as soon as I have it in sight. One time, it was gone.

This most characteristic ingredient in the Malmö cityscape had suddenly disappeared. Where it was supposed to rise proudly, there was only sky.

It was ironic, since that was at a time when this costly building was intensely discussed in the media, and the initiator of the project was taking a lot of heat – quite ridiculously, since this is now one of the few things at all putting Malmö on the world map.

Had the expensive skyscraper vanished?

Slowly, teasingly, it started to reappear in the sky. Some local fog or cloud or something had hidden it. For the next hour or so, the building kept disappearing and reappearing, as if uncertain about the joy of its own existence. A spectacle.

Above is a picture of one of those phases. Below is a video I took of the event. I'm sorry that you have to tilt your head, but I filmed it with my regular digital camera, which I mainly used for still photos, so I forgot that films are always landscape. Surely, I could turn it 90 degrees in any movie editor, but that possibility escaped me before uploading it on YouTube.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Inspirational Sensualism

Now I've restored all the images on this blog, after my accidental deletion of them through my Galaxy cell phone. I celebrate by adding an image, the croquis above.

I made the drawing a couple of years ago. Croquis is great fun. Also, it's an excellent and very effective way of exercising one's artistic ability.

The human body is the foundation and measure of all art – drawings, sculpture, and painting, of course, but also for example architecture, as can be clearly seen on the Malmö building Turning Torso, by Santiago Calatrava. Our aesthetic ideals spring from the human body, its proportions, colors, and movements.

Sadly, I don't find all the time I'd like for this exercise. Nor is it that easy to get willing models. Otherwise I'd do it daily.

It's strange how quickly one develops one's abilities when doing croquis. Even a beginner can clearly see improvement from one drawing to the next. There is great inspiration in the uninhibited study of the human body, and making the pen follow its form is highly sensual.

If you look for a hobby that's highly rewarding and deeply satisfying, look no further.

Here is more of my artwork – drawings, painting, photos, and video experiments. Below is a croquis I made way back in the 1970's, when I had much more time and opportunity for it.

(Click on the images to see them enlarged.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mistaken Image Deletion

The other day, I accidentally erased all the images on my blog. I did so on my Android phone, not realizing that it would delete them from the blog as well.

Shit happens. I will reload the images in the near future, when I find the time. Fortunately I have them all on my computer harddrive. In the meantime, enjoy the dramatic black rectangles indicating all the beautiful pictures that were once there...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Many Occasions to Contemplate Murder

In 1986, the Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme was shot on a Stockholm street. That shocked the Swedish nation, previously spared from such violence against our leaders. It gnawed my mind persistently, so I wrote a book.

The book, Occasionally I Contemplate Murder, was not at all about the assassination of Olof Palme, in spite of its slightly cryptic dedication:

To the poor target
of the one who probably
triggered this book.

Instead, I wrote about the mysteries of life, death, and what kind of meaning might be found in their interaction. The eternal question, refusing a definite answer: What's it all about?

Out of the Gloom

In an effort to write without getting drowned in gloom, something that the subject in combination with the Swedish language would be hard to avoid, I decided to do it in English. I wanted the contrast of the somber content and a light-hearted tone, as if not taking it that seriously. Otherwise, the book might become as heavy to write as it would be to read.

English literature has a tradition of such dead-serious comedians, some of them old favorites of mine – like Mark Twain and Kurt Vonnegut. The darkest subjects can only be explored by comedy.

This was the first time I wrote a book in English, originally. When I lived in the USA for about a year in 1979-80, I translated some of my Swedish work into English, but that's another story. With Occasionally I Contemplate Murder I was delighted to find that my intention was fulfilled. In the English language it was indeed possible for me to keep a light tone in spite of the dark matters at hand. I worked on it during 1986 and got it finished somewhere in the spring of 1987.

So, there I was with a complete book script in English, but what to do with it? I sent it to a US literary agent, which had been mine for a while when I stayed in New York (Sanford J. Greenburger), but they had failed to sell another script of mine, so they were not that keen on the new one – especially since it was more of an essay than a novel.

When they declined, I just let the script lie in a drawer. But soon, a Swedish publisher, Eric Fylkesson, heard about it and asked if he could read it. Eric had a small publishing house releasing odd and intriguing titles. He was – and is – also a brilliant poet, both in text and on stage. He is one of the Swedish writers I admire the most, so I was happy to let him read the script.

To my delight, he urged me to translate it into Swedish, saying that he would gladly publish it if I did. Although I was flattered, I doubted that it would be possible to turn the text into Swedish and keep its essential light-hearted style. Eric wouldn't take no for an answer, but insisted that I give it a try. Well, I did, and it actually worked.

Because I had the English version as a source, I could find the corresponding Swedish language. The translated text didn't fall into an abyss. Much to my surprise.

Here, There, and Back Again

In August of 1987, the Swedish book was published. It never entered any bestseller lists, but it became kind of a cult thing. Lots of people let me know that the book had triggered their thoughts. I was especially pleased to learn that several colleagues appreciated it greatly.

Well, life went on and the book slowly fell asleep like most books do. Almost 20 years after it was published in Sweden, the media world had gone through multiple revolutions. Suddenly it was possible for me to have it published in English. At first, I did so on my website, just for fun. I embraced the idea of reaching the world with my words, without any go-between.

Then, Internet bookstores and Print on Demand publishing made it possible to get the actual book out. In spite of the world wide web miracle, that's still how a book becomes real. You need to hold it and turn the pages. Otherwise, the reading experience is somewhat lacking. Touching is part of reading.

The first edition was published in 2006 with the simple title Murder. For the second edition, I edited the text for the umpth time and also decided on a new title: Occasionally I Contemplate Murder – to make it say something more about the content and the type of book. And I had great fun producing the drastic cover image.

Alas, there have been many targets and triggers since Olof Palme was assassinated. Just these last days, we struggle with the shock of a Norwegian fanatic methodically shooting down more than sixty teenagers. One would like to believe that this must be the last act of such kind.

Life and death, and the way they dance together, are still in dire need of explanations and still constantly escaping them. There are many occasions to contemplate.

Here is more about the book: Occasionally I Contemplate Murder
Here it is on Amazon US and on Amazon UK.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Faith or Not, You Have to Leap

Steve Martin has made a bundle of movies. Of those I've seen, three stand out: the revealing view of superficial society in LA Story, the sensitive modernized version of Cyrano de Bergerac in Roxanne, and the naked take on fake religion suddenly becoming real in Leap of Faith. This is about the last one, right now my favorite – although maybe because I just saw it anew.

The essay has been moved to my personal website:

Faith or Not, You Have to Leap

Monday, June 27, 2011

Murder Mystery

The truth is elusive. That's what intrigues us about crime cases – real or fictional. What really happened is rarely ascertained, nor why it did. That's certainly true in the case of Alex and Derek King, who killed their father Terry when they were only 12 and 13. Their story raises more question than it answers. Is it only in fiction we can reach solid conclusions?

The essay has been moved to my personal website:

Murder Mystery

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Facebook Fading?

There is such a thing as a maximum, even for Facebook. Now, it seems to be declining in the parts of the world where it has the most subscribers. Internet users are an impatient lot – because they can be.

The essay has been moved to my personal website:

Facebook Fading?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Don't Wanna Stay Alive When You're 25

I was a huge fan of David Bowie in the 1970's, but gradually lost that fascination as the 80's approached. He seemed to lose his edge and that desperation contained within, just barely kept from erupting. I wonder if rock'n'roll is something reserved for the young.

The essay has been moved to my personal website:

Don't Wanna Stay Alive When You're 25

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Few Get More

The rich ones keep on grabbing more of the world's wealth. One percent of the world population owns 39% of its wealth. Greed is insatiable.

The essay has been moved to my personal website:

The Few Get More

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Shooting on My Street

Hollywood came to my street in Stockholm. For a day and a night, they were shooting scenes for the Stieg Larsson crime story The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The size of it! Hollywood is a flashmob Caesar.

The essay has been moved to my personal website:

Shooting on My Street

Friday, June 3, 2011

Religion Has Always Been Doubted

I've just published a new edition of my book about the Greek philosophers and what they thought about religion, their gods, and the myths about them: Cosmos of the Ancients. I was curious about how much they actually believed in their gods. Not much at all, I found.

Generally, we tend to take for granted that in ancient times, doubts about religious matters were almost unfathomable. We expect that the further back in time we go, the less people were able to see through the religious concepts or question them at all. The gods were as real to them as the sky, the sun, and the moon.

I was not so sure of it, considering the nature of the human mind, which has been about the same – as far as we know – for hundreds of thousands of years. That's how long the human brain size has been about the same. This big thing must have been put to use in all kinds of matters, especially those that appeared from inside of it.

We are unable to scrutinize human though in any detail, way back to the stone age, but there are lots of thoughts preserved from Ancient Greece. That's at least some 2,400 years back, in a time where gods were worshipped and myths about them were common knowledge. So, I decided to investigate what the Greek philosophers revealed about their thoughts on religious matters.

They were the finest minds of the time, no doubt, so what they concluded might not have been the views of the common man. But if they were at all able to question the existence of the gods and the accuracy of the myths about them, then all the people of that time would at least have had the ability to do the same. It could not have been beyond their mental capacity.

Indeed, most of the philosophers expressed some kind of disbelief regarding religious views. Several of them were outright atheists, others regarded the gods as symbols of sorts, or imagined supernatural powers of other kinds. Actually, philosophers with a belief in the common myhtology were hard to find.

This might very well be true for any time and any culture. The religious beliefs are not embraced by all, at least not entirely. There has always been doubt and alternative ideas about it all. This needs to be considered wherever religion is studied. We can't take blind belief for granted, even when we go far back or examine a culture where religion seemed to rule the world view. Its rule was probably never absolute.

People's minds wander. They've always done so. The one thing that is the hardest to find, upon closer examination, is consensus. That's probably how we progress at all.

Here's my book about the Greek philosophers and their religious views on Amazon.
It's also a Kindle ebook.
And here is more information about the book on my website.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Anguish of a Writer

The last month or so, I've been struggling with an old novel of mine, editing it for a new release. The struggle has been one of extreme doubt – should I really publish this book again, or let it continue its merciful sleep in oblivion?

It's a stone age story I wrote already in the late 1970's, which was published in Sweden in 1982 as Evigheten väntar (Eternity Awaits). See the cover of the book above. Already the title reveals its weakness – a tendency towards the overly sentimental and melodramatic. The text is quite pretentious at times, with wordings that reek of poetic gluttony.

It was intentional, in a way, since my aim with the book was to explore what kind of meaning stone age people found for their life, and how their brains, already at least as big as ours, perceived their world. They did not just live their lives, but indulged in them, marveled at the wonders of the world around them, and meditated their own beings with amazement.

Still, that made the text heavy with exaggeration and sticky with ornamentation.

So, when starting to edit the novel, some 30 years after it was written, I went through quite a lot of anguish. Could this firework of a text at all be edited into something readable?

I did what I could, without changing the novel into some other story. It was an edit, not a rewrite, although the idea of the latter was sometimes tempting. I made a number of little changes on just about each and every page, and still it felt thick with the kind of sentiment that almost turns itself into parody.

Several times I considered giving it up, and turn my attention to another script instead. I have a few to choose from. But with a persistence that got its energy from frustration instead of any strength of my character, I carried on until the last page. The script had gotten quite messy from all the marks of my pen, and it took a while to type all the corrections into the Word file.

I made a PageMaker file of the text, still very unsure of its quality, and started sketching on a cover design. That was some kind of comfort. I always enjoy making the book design, deciding on typography, caring about page breaks, and so on. That can be more pleasing than writing the book. It was certainly the case with this one.

When I was ready with that, I printed the whole thing out on paper, to have one last editing session with it. This final reading I usually do on restaurants, coffee shops, train rides and such, just to get out of my home.

On a local restaurant that I frequent regularly, a friend got curious about the manuscript and asked if he could have a look at it. This friend is a priest, struggling with his daily professional duties, which can be grim at times, as well as with his own faith and its collisions with the flawed institution that is his church. I value his opinion, since he has put in a tremendous effort to reach it.

Now, he opened the script and read the first few lines out loud. They contain a very comprised creation myth of sorts, as told by the book's main character, and how it sort of leads to his own birth and emergence in the world. It plays on the word “föda”, which means both breed and feed. Here it is, in a rough translation from the Swedish original:

I am.
Now, I command my spirit.

Mountain breeds sand, breeds soil. Soil breeds the trees, which breed all the animals. The animals breed the people. People breed people and nothing more.

People bred me, Imri, the last. I remember how I slipped out of the embrace of my maternal flesh. It was cold, but light came and warmed by body. The sun dried my skin.

And so on.
The priest was pleased, and so was I. He said several kind words about the poetic expressions and found them delightful. To my surprise, so did I. For a few months, I had worked so hard on the editing that I had forgotten to taste the words and let them get to me. Now they did.

He read a few sentences here and there in the manuscript, and we both felt the pleasure remain. Not only did the decorated text make sense, but I found that it was enjoyable. It was not over the top, at least not more so than needed for the story it had to tell.

What I had not been able to discover by myself was obvious through the medium of my friend's reading. Actually, he could have done it in silence, and it would have worked the same. When I allowed him to read it and watched him doing so, I was suddenly aware of the text's qualities and my belief in it. My anguish disappeared and I thanked my frustrating persistence, which had all along known better than my mind did.

So, now I will hurry to get the book published. But I will change the title – and the cover.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Characters With Character

Now that Charlie Sheen is fired, I don't see how the sitcom Two and a Half Men can possibly continue. They'll probably try it, but the circle is broken. That perfect set of characteristic characters can't be rearranged.

The essay has been moved to my personal website:

Characters With Character

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Skateboard Shadow

I had the idea of taking photos of shadows. I took some, but then other things got in between. But here is one of them – a skateboarder nice enough to jump for me. He had to do it over and over, before I got it right.

Sometimes I pull out my camera and stroll around town with a certain theme in mind. One was closeups, one was autumn leaves, a recurring theme has been water, and so on.

Shadows can be intriguing, so I decided to make a theme of it, a couple of years ago. I took a few photos, but then life got in the way. I have taken an occasional shot or two on that theme since, but I still don't have enough of them to make a gallery on my website.

So, here's a peak preview of what might become a gallery of shadow photos. On a local skateboard park, one of the young skaters was gracious enough to do his jumps until I got a photo I was pleased with. We had to do it twenty times or so. He had patience.

Here's the photo I like the most in that series. Click on it to see an enlarged version.

Bland Leads Dull Glee

The TV world has its own natural laws, some of them more difficult to understand than those of Einstein's relativity and string theory. I often wonder about casting. Especially those who get to play the lead roles are frequently chosen as if failure is the goal. Glee is a typical example of this.

The essay has been moved to my personal website:

Bland Leads Dull Glee

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Ratatouille of the Heart

Last night, I watched Ratatouille again. It's a charming animated film. For me, it's particularly amusing to see the devilish portrayal of Ego, the restaurant critic, since I was one for twelve years. Not like him, I hope, but that's for others to decide.

The essay has been moved to my personal website:

A Ratatouille of the Heart

Monday, February 28, 2011

Olof Palme – the Swedish JFK

Today it's 25 years since the Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme was shot to death on a Stockholm street, leaving the country in a shock that we're still not completely over. There are many similarities to his fate and that of John F. Kennedy, as well as the traumatic effect these assassinations had on Swedish and US society.

The essay has been moved to my personal website:

Olof Palme - the Swedish JFK

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It's All Real - the World According to the Tao Te Ching

I recently published my English version of the Chinese classic Tao Te Ching. As an appetizer, here's the start of the first chapter of the book. This is where Lao Tzu, the legendary writer of the book, sets out his cosmology and the basic principles behind his world view. It's not an easy text to interpret in its Chinese origin, nor to translate into another language with any confidence. Not to mention grasping its ideas. So, this is how I see it. Others may see it very differently.

The Way that can be walked is not the eternal Way.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of Heaven and Earth.
The named is the mother of all things.

Free from desire you see the mystery.
Full of desire you see the manifestations.
These two have the same origin but differ in name.
That is the secret,
The secret of secrets,
The gate to all mysteries.

It’s All Real
Lao Tzu begins his writing about Tao, the Way, by stating that the written word cannot fully encompass the real thing. The workings of the Way are hidden behind what we can observe. It was present at the dawn of time and the birth of the universe, but it’s visible only through what has been created out of it, in accordance with it: the whole world and all its creatures. Tao is the Way the universe works...

Here is my full commentary on this Tao Te Ching chapter:
Tao Te Ching Chapter 1 Translation and Commentary

(The image above is the first chapter of the Tao Te Ching in Chinese, the Wang Pi version.)

Here is more about my English version of the book:
Tao Te Ching – The Taoism of Lao Tzu Explained
Here is the book on Amazon:
Tao Te Ching on Amazon
It's also a Kindle ebook:
Tao Te Ching – Kindle ebook

If you're Swedish, it's quicker and cheaper to order the book from AdLibris.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Was the Old Man a Woman?

Working on my English version of the Tao Te Ching, I speculated on the age old questions about the identity of the old man said to be the writer of the text. An intriguing possibility gnawed on my mind – what if the old man was in fact a woman?

Tao Te Ching, the classic on Taoism, repeatedly expresses preference of the traits traditionally linked to the female – such as humility, care, and yielding instead of struggling to take the lead. This was quite unusual in China at the time of the text's appearance, which would be somewhere during the 6th to the 4th century BC.

Legend has it that the writer was Lao Tzu, a man who had worked as a civil servant at the court of the emperor. When he got old, he left the court and the country, riding a water buffalo. A border guard convinced him to write down his wisdom, before leaving the country for good. This he did, and the result is the Tao Te Ching.

Nothing is known for sure about the man. Lao Tzu simply means Old Master, as if his own name didn't matter. Some annals claim that he was an older contemporary of Confucius, but that can be discussed. Many modern scholars doubt that he existed at all. They believe that the Tao Te Ching is just a collections of proverbs and such.

The title Lao Tzu, Old Master, might also be plural – the Old Masters. That would argue for the book being a collection of proverbs from here and there in Chinese tradition. The title also lacks gender specification. The Old Master might just as well be a woman.

Many historians and other experts on ancient China would object that a female author of this or any other classic is highly unlikely. Maybe so, but definitely not impossible. We probably have no way of knowing for sure, but I like the idea.

There is something about the mildness of the Taoist philosophy, the compassion of the Taoist ideals, and the soft words by which they are expressed in the Tao Te Ching, that suggest a female writer. Men in those days, mostly also today, have had a tendency to proclaim their wisdom much more firmly, announcing it proudly. They usually reason and argue quite categorically, without any hesitation.

Certainly, there's nothing ruling out a male writer of the Tao Te Ching, either. Most writers up until the last couple of centuries have been male, in every part of the world. But not all of them. This could be one exception.

In any case, the Tao Te Ching is surprisingly soft-spoken and pensive, for a classic that has become one of the most prominent texts of ancient wisdom. Whether male or female, we should all be more like Lao Tzu.

Here is more about my English version of the book:
Tao Te Ching – The Taoism of Lao Tzu Explained
Here is the book on Amazon:
Tao Te Ching on Amazon
It's also a Kindle ebook:
Tao Te Ching – Kindle ebook

If you're Swedish, it's quicker and cheaper to order the book from AdLibris.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Tao Moving

Yesterday, I finally finished the work on my English version of the Tao Te Ching, and uploaded the files to the publisher. The book will be available on Internet bookstores in a few days - both as a Kindle ebook and in regular print.

If I may say so, myself, I am very pleased with the result. I managed to get the translations of the 81 Lao Tzu chapters as clear and simple as intended, which is how I perceive the Chinese original. Also, my comments on each chapter didn't feel out of place, when I was proof reading. Now, I am eager to see if future readers will agree or not.

So, if you come across the book and have a look at it, please let me know what you think about it. As soon as the book is out on Amazon, I'll put links to it on this blog.

The image above is the book's cover.

Added February 13:
Now, the book can be ordered at Amazon and other Internet bookstores. Here are links to it:
Tao Te Ching at Amazon US
Tao Te Ching as a Kindle ebook
More about the book

Saturday, January 22, 2011

In the Stillness of Tao

My long silence on this blog is due to intense work on my English version of Tao Te Ching, the Chinese Taoist classic.

I'm almost ready with it, now, so I take a few minutes to write this message. I still have some editing to do, and the introduction is not completed. But I hope to have the book out in a few weeks.

I will let you know, here and elsewhere. In the meantime, you find more about Tao Te Ching and my version of it here: