Posts Tagged ‘Daoism’


Zen and the Art of Air Travel,” a short article about airline delays in the Dallas Morning News, doesn’t have much to do with Zen, but that’s sort of the point. Going all the way back to Eugen Herrigel’s 1948┬á Zen in the Art of Archery (Zen in der Kunst des Bogenschie├čens) and Robert Pirsig’s 1974 Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, the first books to use the “Zen in/and the art of…” titles, there was little connection to Zen Buddhism. The ubiquity of “Zen in/and the art of…” speaks to the increasing dissociation of Zen from any historical and cultural context, as well as the perception that Zen is embedded in the arts. Anything can be a Zen art, to the benefit of lazy headline and title writers.

The author here at least makes an attempt to draw on something Asian, but chooses the legendary Daoist sage Lao Tzu (Laozi) rather than a Zen, or even a Buddhist, figure. Zen Buddhists adopted many ideas from the writings attributed to Lao Tzu and the later Daoist philosopher Chuang Tzu (Zhuangzi), but I suspect that the use of a Lao Tzu quotation in this short article bespeaks the conflation of Asian religions rather than an acknowledgement of Zen Buddhism’s debt to earlier Chinese traditions. Incidentally, Lao Tzu described the ideal country as one in which people felt no need to leave home, so he probably wouldn’t have made the best airline customer.


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