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The Hunters Tao

The Hunters Tao by Ian Barnett

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During early 2013, I kept seeing little snippets passed about on Facebook attributed to an ancient Chinese philosopher called Lao Tzu. After a search, I finally discovered a user friendly translation of Lao Tzus work, ‘Tao Te Ching’ and sat down to read it. What had really drawn me in was the concept within this philosophy of a central, inexplicable natural order. In my own writings .. hundreds of magazine articles, wildlife blogs and two books .. I have always tried to impart my belief in the natural presence that I have always referred to as ‘Mother Nature’. The more I studied the ‘Tao Te Ching’, the more I realised that the folk who developed this manuscript (written two and half millennium ago) were in tune with nature and the natural order in exactly the same way that I have been while sitting quietly in the woods and fields of my beloved Norfolk, watching the behaviour of bird and beast, wind, water, sun and moon. My personal ideology has long revolved around my ‘Mother Nature’ and my temple, the place where I go to reflect and to heal .. is the countryside. If I take issue with any of Lao Tzus writings it would be around the constant reference to the ‘valley way’, which I assume to be pastoral, passive lifestyle of the Chinese ancients. There are, throughout the Tao Te Ching, some condemnations of sport, hunting and arms. Far from annoyance, I found amusement in this. I am a hunter. Because of this, I understand the ways of bird and beast better than many. My craft depends on observation and knowledge. When I move quietly through the forest, I am in tune with the forest. Part of the ecology, part of the food chain, part of the ‘circle of life’. One of Lao Tzus ‘ten thousand things’. I am an animal and my presence there is as natural as that of the owl, the buzzard, the deer, the crow or the squirrel. My right to act in the interest of crop, stock or songbird protection .. or to hunt to eat .. is surely as inherent to natural law as is the stalk of the fox or the stoop of the falcon? All of this made me re-visit the ‘Tao Te Ching’, several times. It is not a long work, by any means .. but it is a profound work. Too meaningful to dismiss or to cast aside simply because you don’t believe or understand all that is written within. Particularly because this work has scripted the way of life for millions of followers for so, so long. And rightly so. Rather than dismiss it, I chose a different path (a different Tao) and set out to take each chapter and interpret it in a way to which I could relate. The following chapters, therefore, are not a plagiarism. Nor are they intended to offend the practising Taoist. Nor despite my use of the masculine throughout, is it intended to infer sexism. I know many female hunters who put their male counterparts to shame. As I refer to Nature throughout as a she .. for she definitely is. No male could be so be so beautiful yet so equally benevolent and cruel. Thus it made sense to call the hunter, he. Simply to avoid confusion. This, The Hunters Tao, is intended as a tribute to the principles of the Tao Te Ching that can be understood by the woodsman, the rambler, the naturalist, the shooter, the forager, the farmer, the ranger, the game-keeper, the pest controller .. anyone who finds solace, sustenance or even employment in the countryside.