Before I go on with the main story, there are a couple of points I'd like to make.
1. I've used the spelling of Chinese terms from the Wade-Giles system, not pinyin. People more readily recognise "Taoism", "Tao te Ching" and "Lao Tzu" (or "Lao Tze") than the pinyin "Daoism", "Daodejing" and "Laozi".
Neither is "right" nor "wrong" - they're just different. Pinyin is certainly more modern, and is standard on mainland China in transliteration.
"Tao" is pronounced "Dow" in English. "Tao te Ching" is pronounced "Dow-d'-jing". Well, unless you're learning Mandarin, that's as close to the way it sounds in Mandarin as you're going to get in English!
2. When blog readers searching for information on Taoism or 'converts' found the first two sections of this piece, I was assailed by people wanting me to promote specific forms of Taoism that emerged out of the original philosophy. Many of these have as little to do with what I'm talking about as Scientology has to do with Christianity.
What I'm talking about in this series is the original philosophy, which is plain, pragmatic common sense derived solely from the Tao te Ching; not magic, sorcery, alchemy, quests for immortality or elixirs for this purpose. These developed in what's usually referred to as "popular" Taoism centuries after the original philosophy, and in my experience have no credibility as Taoist philosophy even though they make vague connections with it.
If you find what I'm writing about interesting, don't be fooled by the quackery you may find online bearing the name "Taoism", any more than you would be by some freaky Jesus cultists peddling a brand-new form of Christianity.
In other words, I'm not talking about religion but philosophy. You can have your religion and still put Taoist principles into action to make life happier for yourself. There's no contradiction!
Back to the story in pt 4....