A dipole is a term in physics that refers to a pair of separated electric charges or magnetic poles, of equal magnitude but of opposite polarity, i.e., negative (–) vs. positive (+) or N. vs. S. Life has adopted this natural dynamic to perceive its surroundings in a way that promotes survival in a competitive environment. In life forms with a nervous system, neurons communicate through an electrochemical process… (–) vs. (+). Given this, it is not surprising we see reality in a (–) vs. (+) mode. This (–) vs. (+) dynamic influences how humans label their perceptions: yes vs. no, good vs. bad, yin vs. yang, life vs. death, active vs. passive, go vs. stop, hot vs. cold, before vs. after, hard vs. soft, heaven vs. hell, male vs. female, white vs. black, and so on.
This dipolar-like perception is essential for survival in the wild. It boils choices down to the simplest level — yes (+) vs. no (–). The human ability to think and remember makes this both a blessing and a curse. Chapter 1’s, These two are the same coming out, yet differ in name implies the curse. Not only do we see things with a false ‘yin yang’ named simplicity; our dipolar memories nag our awareness constantly. Such dipolar-like perception hinders feeling these two are the same side of nature.
A view of Oneness informs the core of most religions, even though each expresses it differently. The odd thing is, even this meta-view (1) of a Oneness versus the many arises out of the brains dipolar-like perception. This feels like a house of mirrors. Watching moment-to-moment is the only way to Use the light, But give up the discernment, as chapter 52’s advises. Chapter 56 adds, Block the openings; Shut the doors. Blunt the sharpness; Untangle the knots; Soften the glare. Eventually, all that is left is a nameless, wordless light of consciousness, as I see it — This is known as following the constant as chapter 52 puts it.
Here ‘oneness’ and ‘many’ blend like dust. When you don’t define what is, you perceive the original, not the dipolar-like labeled model. The more literal Word for Word Chapter 56 puts it this way:
Knowing not speak; speaking not know. — 知者不言. 言者不知.
Subdue its sharpness, untie its tangles, — 挫其锐, 解其纷,
Soften its brightness, be the same as dust, — 和其光, 同其尘,
This is called profound sameness. — 是谓玄同.
Profound sameness is simply an attempt to describe how the non-dipolar original feels. This description can serve as your ‘canary in the coalmine’ of your mind. When we see differences, we know we are seeing an illusion projected by our dipolar perception and narrow self-interests. When we see similarities, we know we are seeing more of the bigger picture… nearly rising beyond oneself as chapter 16 says. Certainly, we can’t help feeling a dipolar-like reality; the trick is to resist thinking and believing that reality is dipolar-like.
On a personal note:
I was dumbfounded when my brother died in the early 60’s. His death made death real for the first time in my life. This caused a life versus death quandary that occupied my every waking moment for months. What was the true nature of life and death? One day, sitting on the bus coming home from work it struck me that life and death were two sides of the same reality. Then chapter one’s “these two are the same but diverge in name as they issue forth” rang deeply true, although a dozen years passed before I could write anything to reflect that experience. Meanwhile, discussing anything took the form of me being a devil’s advocate on everything. Every issue had its dipolar twin.
In the early 80’s I found myself in a quandary again. I don’t exactly know why, although I suspect it was linked to my initial quandary. Realizing that life and death are the same never completely resolved my original question: What was the true nature of life and death? I now needed to get to the bottom of this dipolar-like perspective. This drove me to work out a Correlations process (p.565) as a practical way to return my mind to a pre “but diverge in name as they issue forth” point of view. It worked so well that within six months it had blown apart every cherished bias I held. I couldn’t take sides.
For a long time, I couldn’t understand why this process appealed to practically no one. Then it dawned on me; we are most attracted to that which supports our preconceptions, beliefs, and biases, not to something that blows them apart. That is precisely the purpose of Correlations… they weaken word meaning and thus any subsequent biases and beliefs that depend on steadfast word meaning.
UPDATE 2023: Chapter 56’s knowing not speak may offers a deeper reason: Knowing not speak because knowing knows that speech easily falls on deaf ears, i.e., we can’t truly grasp what we don’t already intuitively know. (See We only understand what we already know, p.254.)
The need to communicate—emotion—is what actually drives speech and writing. It’s the urge to help, to tell a story, call out a warning, etc. More deeply, speech and writing may also be an attempt to convince ourselves… a sort of talking to ourselves aloud. So, finally I know why I am actually writing all this!
This brings me to wonder why I post my observations and links to the Tao Te Ching and the Correlation process. It is a futile undertaking after all. I assume the social instinct drives me to communicate and to help others to soften the glare (#56) of distinctions — the futility of it notwithstanding. It feels very ironic and quixotic!
(1) Meta view: Meta (from Greek: “after”, “beyond”, “with”) is a prefix used in English to indicate a concept which is an abstraction from another concept, used to complete or add to the latter.
I am using this term to indicate the idea of stepping outside-the-box, to step outside-the-box, to step outside-the-box… ad infinitum… to see beyond the box. In this vein, I imagine a meta-view of balance must include imbalance as integral to true balance. Imbalance ‘balances’ balance. Seen together, balance and imbalance compose an all-inclusive whole. Thus, whether I’m balanced or imbalanced makes no difference for I will need one or the other to counterbalance circumstances. I suppose that explains why nothing ever resolves itself. If it did, the universe would end… or begin. Poof!
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