I spent a lot of the day in the backyard picking weeds. Nothing beats having enough free time to sit in the warm sun picking weeds. Even better, I’m heeding chapter 64’s, Deal with a thing while it is still nothing; Keep a thing in order before disorder sets in. Occasionally, the ducks would come close, root around a bit for a tasty morsel, chatter away, and then move on. It got me wondering…
A duck’s quacking is its vocal expression of emotion. Having been around them for years, I can pick out their moods: happy, excited, content, nosey, curious, afraid, hungry, anxious, feeling kinship. They are Indian Runners, an extremely social breed.
I’ve come across a myopic segment of humanity that can’t countenance such ‘humanizing’ of mere birds. Of course, they wouldn’t be reading this site anyway, so I won’t need to justify my view… at least so far.
I realized today, in a simple earthy way, that human thought is the equivalent expression of emotion for us. That includes any speech or writing that thought produces. Ducks quack their emotion, dogs bark their emotion, and humans think and speak their emotion — and so on throughout the animal kingdom.
Action is the other principle way emotion expresses itself other than quacking and thinking. You could say these two are also actions. The difference is that quacking and thinking take the least physical effort and so perhaps reverberate more easily throughout awareness than other more physical actions (work, hobby, sport, art, etc.). But wait, there’s more…
The one thing that stirs up emotion more than anything is apprehension of the unknown or unsettling situations. When a hawk flies through the area, the black birds go nuts, and this sets of some real commotion among the ducks. I doubt they know it’s a hawk, they just sense something is ‘up’. The unknown rears its awesome head. On the other hand, in the morning stillness with the world feeling ‘known’ the ducks go about quietly in their moment-to-moment.
The one thing that stirs up more emotion than most in me has always been the unknown. Does she love me, does she not? Will I miss my flight? Lose my job? Is it cancer? I not only experience the unsettling emptiness of the unknown, I see it in everyone, and everywhere I look. Fear of the unknown is universal, in ducks, in people. But wait, there’s more…
The more is this:
Seeing a direct connection between emotion and thinking and speaking offers a straightforward way to understand what chapter 56 means when it says, One who knows does not speak; one who speaks does not know.(1) A sense of the ‘unknown’ trips emotional equilibrium more than anything else. Feeling the unknown drives us to think and speak, and ducks to quack. I suspect that the dialectic nature of human cognition creates a vast virtual unknown — the mind. The, “one who speaks does not know” does not refer to a lack of knowing something; it refers to sensing the void — nothing. It invokes the unknown, that flowing river of “does not-know“, which our mind then fills with thoughts and speech.
Conversely, emotion relaxes, when, as chapter 16 says, I do my utmost to attain emptiness; I hold firmly to stillness. The myriad creatures all rise together and I watch their return. The teaming creatures all return to their separate roots. Here, there is no emotional energy to drive quacking, thinking or speaking. Here, not even the unknown is known. Then I can just be a quiet duck.
(1) Note: Chapter 56 says, “One who speaks does not know“, not some admonition like “Verily I say, ye shall not think, speak or quack“. In other words, the thinking, speaking and quacking are symptoms, not causes. Conversely, trusting what you think to be true perceives thoughts to be fundamental in their own right instead of merely symptoms of a deeper reality. Such trust in what you think to be true leads to difficulty, as chapter 71 warns, Not to know yet to think that one knows will lead to difficulty. For a long time I assumed chapter 56 was saying that speaking and thinking were a fault somehow, perhaps because it implied not knowing. Ah, eventually the light turns on.