This book draws upon the classic work of the ancient Taoist storyteller/philosopher Chuang Tzu (370-286 b.c.e.) to critique our society’s conventional understanding of aging and its biased interpretations of the qualities exhibited by elders as well as alternative positive “ways” for an elder to develop his or her often neglected potentials and powers for elder growth. To accomplish this the chapters of the book are meant to explore how the crazy wisdom of the Chuang Tzu (and to a lesser degree, the Lieh Tzu) can assist us in reaching four goals:
1) Contribute to a recognition of modern society’s uncreative stereotypes and declinist prejudices associated with the meaning and process of aging as well as the social conformities that prepare children and adults to ignore the fires of personal growth.
2) Present Chuang Tzu’s alternative and positive interpretations of psychological and behavioral phenomena often criticized by family and friends which can and often do negatively affect an elder’s sense of self. Chuang Tzu explores the deeper positive possibilities opened up through forgetting, wandering, and being useless.
3) Suggest ways (taos/daos) by which elders can explore, engage with and be energized by an integrated functioning of body, heart-mind and spirit or spiritual energy (shen qi).
4) Help elders (and others) develop an appreciation for and sensitivity to the dynamic, harmonious and diverse unity of the wider cosmic-earth process as well as to learn how to move with it, and thus be uplifted by its felt-presence and inspired by its innate wisdom. Pondering and emotionally and spiritually opening to the nature of the human life/death cycle in this wider context can be transforming especially for wise elders, according to Taoists Chuang Tzu and Lieh Tzu.