A Joycean Stripture of the Tao Ching - a meditation on yin wisdom

Writing this is difficult. I much prefer the silence of obscurity. However, I would like to share with all of you the completed project of writing and publishing a book called: “A Joycean sTripture (not scripture) of the TaoChing”, a Joycean translation of the first 37 verses of Lao Tzu’s ancient Taoist classic, often known as “The Way of Life”. More a meditative reflection than a scholarly juxtaposition, it was also a collaborative adventure. The photographs accompanying each verse were taken by my brother, an architect living in London; a Chinese friend of his in Hong Kong lovingly created the calligraphy for each verse; and a friend here in Maine, who was brilliant with the computer, helped tirelessly to weave the four of us together, each in our own way exploring the depth of ancient Taoist wisdom and its relevance to where we find ourselves in today’s world.

The treasure trove of Joyce’s etymological creativity is like a dream. His oblique night-language in Finnegans Wake weaves together a verbal crazy-quilt out of 60 or so languages. His child-like sense of funereal playfulness (“funferall”), combined with his encyclopedic knowledge and love for a great archetypal theme such as a “Wake” and “awakening”, gives a vitality to the”siamixed push-pull” of apparent opposites, so threatening to our Western, predominantly yang, either-or language and thinking. However, might it not take some creative “obliterature” of such an abstract, patrifocal language as English to bring out the deepdown reverberation with the dark, the dark womb, the Valley Spirit, Her Mamafesta”?

My hope was to find a way to deconstruct so many of our habitual concepts, so that the brilliance of words themselves, like pictographic Chinese characters, might (‘two thinks at a time’) penetrate and radically pierce the stalemates of our 2,500 years of thinking —ever since Plato first pronounced that dreams and the night, the realms of the dark were obsolete.

How fun it would be for you, I can’t say…but we had great fun doing it. Thank you for letting me share.

Ann Carroll


Ann Carroll has done HER part: she has fulfilled a deep life commitment through her magnum opus, A Joycean Stripture of the TaoChing: a meditation on yin wisdom. Now we are called to do our part: to read it…to take it in…slow and easy… so it seeps down, penetrating the pores of our cultural conditioning, grounded in and perpetuated through language. lt is a meditation… and a clarion call to go to the roots of our thinking– invisibly and insidiously influenced by patriarchal linguistics. Language shapes cultures, and we are being shaped away, cut off from the dark richness of the yin consciousness that embodies and embeds us, inextricably, in the natural world—her mamafesta! A Joycean Sripture is not a light read,,,as these are not light times. Yet Ann invites us to a delicious, visually rich, and hearty smorgasbord, spiced with the humor and wisdom through the ages and the sages, east and west. Come enjoy this visual, intellectual. heart and soul-centered feast! Digest it well—we need this type of nourishment right now to awaken, sustain, and inspire us!

–Marilyn Hardy, MS, GCFP

I loved Ann Carroll’s translation of the Tao Ching – with its extraordinary addition of Joycean language. At first I felt quite lost because Joyce is definitely a stretch, but found that if I just read one verse at a time – made it part of my morning meditation – and took the time to appreciate and re-imagine language as he does, it was hugely rewarding. And full of humor as well as wisdom. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in a different and lively interpretation of this ancient spiritual work.

–Margaret Morfit


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