Styles of thinking and clothing have a lot in common. We are born with mind simple and body naked. We soon dress our body in clothes and our mind in thoughts. Wishing to return to our original self physically, we can simply go naked. Wishing to return to our original no mind, is another matter. The main glitch in returning to one’s roots here lies in styles of thinking. I see two archetypical cognitive styles (A and B below) from which we ‘choose’, sometimes one, sometimes the other. Which is your most common ‘choice’ in real life?
- (A) The focus is on discerning differences. This tends to shore up one’s biases, which augments feeling tribal connection. This thought style also stimulates the social fairness instincts. This can leave one feeling either pleased or annoyed (by the ‘injustice’ of it all) depending on the circumstances.
- (B) The focus is on discerning similarities (1). This tends to neutralize one’s biases, which augments feeling the shape that has no shape. This thought style also pours cold water on social fairness instincts. This can leave one feeling more serene (by the ‘natural justice’ of it all) regardless of circumstances.
Talking about shoring up or neutralizing one’s biases may be misleading. Perhaps a better word would be for biases would be ‘knowledge’. After all, at some level knowledge and bias share common ground. So, let’s peel another layer off the onion by clarifying the knowledge issue…
Not being omniscient, we can’t know anything absolutely, only partially. This means all knowledge is relative and essentially rests on shaky ground. We compensate for this by pumping up faith in our beliefs, and thinking style (A) helps accomplish this with its focus is on discerning differences.
Discernment of differences, differentiating ‘this’ from ‘that’, is the foundation upon which knowledge rests. Reducing the discernment of differences is one way to soften the glare and alleviate knowledge’s impact on perception. Thinking style (B) helps achieve this by looking for as much similarity between apparent differences as possible. Then when asked, “When your discernment penetrates the four quarters are you capable of not knowing anything?” You can answer, “Yep! All I see is mysterious sameness”
It all comes down to a choice between taking a point of view that magnifies differences, or one that shrinks differences. In light matters, thinking style (A) works well. It is fun and parallels allow yourself to have desires to observe its manifestation. However, in serious matters, I prefer style (B) which fosters greater serenity (2). It parallels rid yourself of desire in order to observe its secrets.
What choice do we have in using one style or the other? Probably none, although, understanding the consequences of each can perhaps help one at least strive on diligently toward it every day, in every way. In the end, isn’t that what really matters. It is not that one succeeds; after all, in the end, we all fail (die). All that matters: he who perseveres is a man of purpose. This is what makes life meaningful, and this is where styles (A) and (B) join forces. Both drive us to strive on in one way or another. In other words, we all strive on diligently, naturally. We just think we ‘should’ try harder! No wonder we have difficulty. As one of my favorite chapters puts it:
(1) Style B is related to the correlations process, a non-‘normal’ way of thought. Using correlations to ponder requires discerning similarities to the point of no return or as close to that as one can get.
(2) Of Course, everything has a price, even serenity. Style (B) diminishes the sense of tribal solidarity. There is no ‘us’ against ‘them’. Social connection becomes much more indistinct and shadowy. Your tribe is the universe. Chapter 20 speaks to this…
Like a baby that has not yet learned to smile,
Listless as though with no home to go back to.
The multitude all have more than enough.
I alone seem to be in want.
My mind is that of a fool – how blank!
Vulgar people are clear.
I alone am drowsy.
Vulgar people are alert.
I alone am muddled.
Calm like the sea;
Like a high wind that never ceases.
The multitude all have a purpose.
Chapter 39 also touches on this…
Hence the superior must have the inferior as root; the high must have the low as a base. Thus, lords and princes refer to themselves as ‘solitary’, ‘desolate’, and ‘hapless’. This is taking the inferior as root, is it not?