Meditations on RZA and the Wisdom of Wu-Tang
By Marcus Del Valle
The mixture of spiritual, religious, mathematical, and hard knock street knowledge conveyed by the RZA in “The Tao of Wu” is a refreshing ode to what it means to be a geeky kid from the projects with a passion for Hip Hop and Kung Fu culture.
In a world where images of poor and colored youth from the projects are tarnished by low probability for success and prejudice, “The Tao of Wu” pulls knowledge out of every experience of being a kid from the hood and creating yourself through diligence and study. The book works hard to bring its reader to Enlightenment through many lessons from different philosophies around the world.
Robert Fitzgerald Diggs, known by many names but most popularly as the RZA, speaks with the same natural lyricism and smooth game as he does when spitting for the Wu-Tang clan. The chapters of the book, released October 15th 2009, start with lyrics from some of his older pieces like “N.Y.C. Everything” and range to quotes by Lao-Tzu, Aristotle and Peter Parker. That’s right, Spider-Man.
Wu-Tang, for the uninitiated, stands for Witty Unpredictable Talent And Natural Game. This perfection of natural style and geeky childhood amines mixed with 80’s Kung-Fu flicks, had profound effects on the RZA. His deep exploration of these sub-cultures animates a life that is all too common in the projects of America but not given a voice in literature.
RZA begins the book stating, “If you live in the projects, you don’t leave them much,” pointing to the structure of the projects including the pseudo convenience of having fast food, laundromats, and check cashing places right in an immediate four block radius.
He continues to talk about all of the different projects he spent his childhood a nomad to and ends the introductory paragraph with “-and they all taught me something, even if they were lessons no one would choose.” [needs re-wording]
Not many genres of entertainment outside of Hip-Hop recordings convey the culture of project living, as this book does it so well. What is refreshing about reading the “Tao of Wu”, is that the RZA speaks with a voice of wisdom and confidence gained through his Hip-Hop career.
Critics from “Rolling Stone” praised the “Tao of Wu” upon its release saying it was an “Artist’s Memoir, ghetto narrative, and manual of divine mathematics.”
The book unravels in segments loosely linked together through metaphor and content. The underlying trend of the search for higher knowledge and happiness is the foundation for the memoir of Wu-Tang. Through the eyes of the RZA, we are taken on a ride through what is known as the Seven Pillars of Wisdom.
The RZA is also part of what is known as the 5% Nation; a sub part of the Nation of Islam created by a man named Clarence 13X. It refers to being part of the 5% of the world that seeks to enlighten the rest of the world through wisdom and knowledge of self.
The “Tao of Wu” is exploration of the plethora of sub-cultures that find unison within the RZA. It has Biblical, Buddhist, Taoist, and Existentialist thought combined with the raw drug dealing just-to-get-by lifestyle of the early years of RZA’s reign, and is filled with a multi-faceted compilation of philosophical thought and cannabis induced mantras.
Tao translates literally to “the way”. The Tao of Wu meaning, is in fact, The Way of Wu, which holds the keys to living a life filled with purpose.
“There are many ways in which we try to find wisdom,” said RZA.
In the foreword of the book, a Buddhist Monk by the name of Sifu Shi Yan Ming says, “I congratulate the world for this beautiful gift, wisdom from the life and travels of RZA, wisdom I truly believe draws from the deepest pools of human thought and spirit.”
The RZA, which stands for Ruler-Knowledge/Wisdom/Understanding-Allah, is himself an abbot, or a leader of a cult of thinkers. Students of the world who spend their lives learning are known about Buddhists, as is Monks in which an abbot is their leader. [it was hard for me to re-word this]
In an interview about the book release, the RZA said, “To me wisdom is the cure to all sickness. Ya na mean? As a old Buddhist scripture would say, without wisdom there is no gain.”
In bearing witness to the RZA’s testimony in gaining knowledge, it is not the amount one pays for knowledge, or the conventionality of how one gains this knowledge but instead the use of knowledge and its transformation into wisdom.
Wisdom is knowledge in action and The “Tao of Wu” is a display of the wisdom of RZA.