Chapter: 56

Click for Word for Word
paperback book or online


I’ve come full circle again… for the umpteenth time. I began the process of digging into one chapter a week thirty years ago. I began this current “work in progress” series of posts two years ago (March 2012) beginning with this chapter 56. Oddly, it seems longer ago than that this time. I suspect that it seems particularly longer because I was beginning to see this project ‘more really’ realistically (see ‘postscript‘ commentary below).


Two years ago I was considering changing the first line. I did go ahead and change it from Knowing doesn’t speak; speaking doesn’t know to Knower not speak; speaker not know. I’m still a little on the fence with this, but saying speaker feels more personal than speaking. Whatever word feels most personal would be the one to use… and that changes from person to person I expect. That is the true value of Word for Word; it let’s us off the hook of any particular translator’s interpretation.

Back then, I was also thinking that unobtainable and intimate could be rephrased as Unobtainable yet intimate. The character here is a conjunction, so either one works. The feeling this unobtainable and / yet evokes plunges deep. It reminds me a bit of the Schrödinger Cat quantum paradox (Schrödinger’s cat video) where the cat is both alive and dead at the same time. Only when observed does it settle out into one or the other states of existence. The mystery that mind can never ‘obtain’, at least through rational means, is reality.  Again, profound sameness points to and helps unravel the mystery a bit… at least for me. In a sense, it gives me some ‘thing’ to look for.


I feel I’m winding down my rhetorical involvement on CenterTao. I’ve been giving my two cents worth for years and years now. That is long enough to demonstrate ‘those who write do not know’, to paraphrase this chapter’s Knower doesn’t speak; speaker doesn’t know.

I do hope I’ve managed in some small way to demonstrate some of what chapter 56 refers to as ‘what is called profound sameness‘. Indeed, it is just that quality of reality, that profound sameness, that makes speaking about any aspect of it terribly limited, realistically speaking. It is like trying to view the cosmos by looking through a straw. Naturally, the Buddhist parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant speaks to this problem perfectly.

I’ve also more fully come to face the cold hard truth behind so called ‘teaching’. Social connection and interaction is the most important aspect of teaching. The notion of ‘enlightening’ anyone on anything is more myth than reality. Indeed, we only understand what we know. That is not to say input has no value. Quite the contrary, all input has value as we journey down our personal road to self-understanding—self-honesty. Input stirs our cognitive pot as we strive to get our emotions, thoughts, and life experiences into harmonious alignment. Ah, but that’s just a fancy way of saying, ‘struggling to grow up’. The input is always more than enough for where we are at any particular stage in life. In other words, everything is just perfect each moment; it is only our expectations that make it feel otherwise.

Being helpful is probably a prime motivation for what I do here, and yes, I know I’ve been helpful to a few people; those who happened into a kind of Taoist ‘cognitive sweet spot’. Usually it is otherwise. Younger folks are more likely to be receptive to concrete, non-impartial, observations. Youthful energy resonates with and stimulates clear-cut points of view. Older folks have already settled down in a suitable worldview and are not looking to shake that up much. Simply said, my experience tells that few are seeking input that shakes up their preconceptions.

Fully accepting that we only understand what we know means I can’t help but feel I am ‘pissing in the wind’, as my father would say. Not that there is anything wrong with that; it is all part of my own growing up. J On the plus side, and to be honest, I enjoy the challenge of trying to capture as much of the bigger picture as I can despite the futility of it… and perhaps because of the futility, come to think of it. Therefore, I may not be winding down as much as I envision—I’ll just have to wait and see.

Knowing when to stop

For the past decade, I’ve been posting from what is a steady stream of observations, trying to cull and comment on the ones most pithy. Now, I’ll see if I can’t first look for every reason in the book why I need not comment. That is easy, given chapter 56. I figure it is about time to “know when to stop”. Still, sometimes I expect I’ll just feel socially and emotionally compelled to offer my 2 cents. That’s fine; I just feel it is time to break this habit of posting observations, if indeed it is a habit. We’ll see.

I will be open to answering any questions, and replying to any comments other offer. These are few and far between up to now, so I don’t expect to be swamped ;-)

Suggested Revision:

Knower not speak; speaker not know.
Subdue its sharpness, untie its tangles,
Soften its brightness, be the same as dust,
This is called profound sameness.

For this reason,
Unobtainable and intimate,
Unobtainable and distant
Unobtainable and favorable
Unobtainable and fearful
Unobtainable and noble
Unobtainable and humble
For this reason all under heaven value it


Share on Facebook

2 Responses to “Chapter: 56”

  • A story for you at this moment of your journey. I’m sure you can relate:

    The great Doctor of the Church St. Augustine of Hippo spent over 30 years working on his treatise De Trinitate [about the Holy Trinity], endeavoring to conceive an intelligible explanation for the mystery of the Trinity.

    Augustine meets a boy on the beach.
    He was walking by the seashore one day contemplating and trying to understand the mystery of the Holy Trinity when he saw a small boy running back and forth from the water to a spot on the seashore. The boy was using a sea shell to carry the water from the ocean and place it into a small hole in the sand.

    The Bishop of Hippo approached him and asked, “My boy, what are doing?”

    “I am trying to bring all the sea into this hole,” the boy replied with a sweet smile.

    “But that is impossible, my dear child, the hole cannot contain all that water” said Augustine.

    The boy paused in his work, stood up, looked into the eyes of the Saint, and replied, “It is no more impossible than what you are trying to do – comprehend the immensity of the mystery of the Holy Trinity with your small intelligence.”

    The Saint was absorbed by such a keen response from that child, and turned his eyes from him for a short while. When he glanced down to ask him something else, the boy had vanished.

  • Yes Erwin, that story speaks to something of this experience. I’ve often wondered just why I do this. This morning, I was thinking of children playing with toys. When we as children play with toys we are in a sense shadowing (or foreshadowing) reality. Likewise, my posts on this site are toying around, shadowing reality… as it appears to me. Oh well, we all need a hobby. ;-)

Leave a Reply