I.T. – 1-10 – To Conceive the Inconceivable

Dear Homo Sapiens of Earth:

Another book that he has in his jeep was the Tao Teh Ching, 6th Century BC, by Lao Tzu. This copy was of Ching Dynasty vintage, in Chinese, and bore some water damage. It was also dog-eared. And on one of the dog-eared pages, there was a quatrain which he underscore in red. It said:

“Man accords his way to the Earth,
the Earth accords its way to the Sky,
the Sky accords its way to the Tao,
and the Tao simply is, according to its own Nature.”

The Tao is the “Way of the Cosmos” in Western lingo.

On the margin, in his own hand, he had written: “Therefore, if we could understand what this Tao is, we should know the optimal Way of Man!”

“Where’s this book from?” I asked him.

“Long story.”

“Are you in a hurry?”

We were at Lake Natron, which was pink with flamingos. There was a commotion earlier when a lone hyena came charging out of the bush and grabbed a chick. The pink rose up to the sky momentarily, then resettled, minus one chick. Nonetheless, peace was restored, and it felt timeless.

“Well, it happened when I was 5 years old. My father was a high level intellectual who was sought by the Communist government in China where I was born. If he got caught, it would be summary execution of the entire family – to eliminate any chance of revenge. My family escaped by boat down the Pearl River by moonlight. By dawn, we reached Cherng Jou, an offshore island of the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong. It was then it happened.”

“It was then what happened?”

“The boatman gave my father this very book.”

“Yes, but it doesn’t quite add up,” I said, though I knew the answer.

“What doesn’t it add up to?”

“Your emotional state.”

“What state is that?”

“You think about it more than philosophically, but as if it has something to do with your very own personal fate.”

“It just might.”

“In what way?”

“In such a way as to make my life a total failure.”


“Well, the old man had a talk with my father on the boat, which my father told me about when I left Hong Kong for Canada at age 20 by plane. It has haunted me since then, and I’ve been failing them, so far.”

“How have you been failing them?”

“By having failed to conceive the Inconceivable.”

“The Inconceivable?”

“This Tao.”

“Why is it inconceivable?”

“Read the very first sentence of the book.”

“It says: ‘The Tao that can be told is not the true Tao.'”

“This pretty much slams the door on me, doesn’t it?”


“Plus, one of Lao Tzu’s followers said, ‘If one asks what the Tao is, and another answers, neither know it.’ This is a rock cast into the well after I had fallen into it.”

“This explains why the subsequent Taoists had maintained a certain silence, as if they knew it.”

“Well put, Raminothna, and thus the degeneration of Taoism from a school of philosophy into a house of sorcery, writing incantations and telling fortune.”

“So the boatman asked your father to tell you to conceive the Tao?”

“That’s right.”

“Didn’t he know that it was considered inconceivable?”

“He gave my father the key to solve the riddle.”

“And your father gave this key to you at the Hong Kong Kai Tak airport?”


“So, where is this key?”

He pointed where, only days ago, he pointed his gun. Of course I could see it clearly in his brain, but I wanted to draw it out of him. “Tell me about it,” I said.

“Well, the boatman, who was a Taoistic priest by the way, said that the key was in the quatrain itself.”

“Tell me this quatrain again.”

“Man accords his way to the Earth,
the Earth accords its way to the Sky,
the Sky accords its way to the Tao,
and the Tao simply is, according to its own Nature.”

“Before we get into it, what do you think of the current Way of Man?”



“Our current trajectory leads directly to severe damage to the Biosphere, possibly to the extent of driving hundreds of thousands of known species to extinction, and perhaps millions of species still unknown. The tropical rainforest will turn to desert, and the ocean will be acidified to the point of losing 95% of its species, including all the marine mammals, major fish species and all corals. Need I say more?”

“So, this key. What form does it take?”

“Logic, I guess.’

“How so?”

“The boatman told my father that the key word in the quatrain is ‘Nature’, ‘that to which the Tao itself accords,’ he said to my father.”


“And that the study of Nature is Science – all the sciences to be exact: Anthropology, Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Ecology, Geology, Physics, Psychology, Sociology…, to cover every aspect of Nature. He even coined a name for it.”

“Which is?”

“OMNI-SCIENCE, ‘Omni’ meaning ‘all-in-one’.”

“Spelled the same way as “omniscience” in the religious sense, except for the hyphon.”

“I have noticed.”

“Carry on.”

“Well, I have studied all the sciences, which explains why it took me five years, including summer school, to earn my B.Sc. But still, I’ve gone nowhere in this quest for the Tao. I have no idea what it is. In fact, I’ve long begun to doubt if it really even exists.”

“It exists.”

“How do you know? How can you be sure?”

“Because I know what it is.”

“You do?! Then pray tell!”

“I will. To help you conceive this Inconceivable Tao, then tell it to the world, is in large measure why I’m here. For this I have borne you a gift of peace, a book. The world can read all about what The Tao is, thus the optimal Way of Man.”

“Great, thank you! So where is this book? I want to read it.”

“It has yet to be written.”

“When is it going to be written?”

“As soon as YOU have written it.”

As if sharing his shock, the flamingos rose into the sky again. While he watched in awe, a tear fell from his eyes.

“Why are you crying?” I asked him.

“I was just thinking of the boatman. I have wronged him for doubting him. Especially given the way he died.”

“How did he die?”

“Something my father has been sad about ever since. The boatman was going back to China. After he had dropped us off in Cherng Jou, he was about to set sail back the way he came, when my father asked him to please not tell anyone where we had gone. He said to my father to not be concerned, that the future of the world would rest on my discovery of the Tao, and that he would never jeopardize it by endangering me. It was then my father said something he had regretted saying for the rest of his life.”

“What did he say?”

“He said, ‘They can make anyone talk. Please be careful.'”


“And the boatman said to not worry. He would give a guarantee that he would never talk. Just please get the kid to conceive the Inconceivable, for the sake of Man and the world.”

“What kind of a guarantee?”

“He sailed the boat out a few hundred yards, then scuttled it.”

Anthony Marr, Founder and President
Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE)
Global Anti-Hunting Coalition (GAHC)


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