A circle has its ups and downs as it spins around. Biology drives the perception that these ups and downs are truly different. It all begins at the elemental cellular level: neurons flip flop between on (up) and off (down). The billions of neural connections in a complex nervous system make for countless ‘not quite up’, ‘not quite down’ areas. Even so, the dividing line is there. The essential role of the Taoist view is to help remove that line from perception.
Doing so is a tall order. Perception lacks impartiality because emotions (feelings) inherently choose sides: attraction vs. aversion, like vs. dislike, happy vs. sad, pleasure vs. pain, win vs. lose. Chapter 1 notes, These two are the same, but diverge in name as they issue forth. Naming things institutionalizes the rift. Alas, the cat is out of the bag because we begin naming things in infancy.
Naming the unknown imparts the security of knowing. Knowing a name, a label, takes the edge off the unknown. Heck! At least we know something. I’ll admit I’ve often thought of this as a false sense of knowing, an illusion. Yet, that’s going too far the other way. So, to put it more impartially: Names and words deliver neither true nor false knowing. The degree of truth or falseness lies in the emotions of the believer, whether speaker or listener.
The more important a belief feels, the more misleading it unavoidably becomes. Emotions of need and fear drive our sense of what is important to us. Chapter 64’s view, “desiring not to desire”, sounds like it could help mitigate this. Most religions push this approach, in one way or another, to counter the negative consequences of desire. Although, while it may be an appealing ideal to many, is it realistic? What really works?
Loosening my mind’s grip on words and names is the most useful and essential Taoist secret I’ve found. It works. It doesn’t matter what I think, as long as I remember that I don’t know. Chapter 71’s, To know yet to think that one does not know is best; is how D.C. Lau put it. The literal is more ruthless and accurate, Realizing I don’t’ know is better. The literal is closer to D.C. Lau’s chapter 10’s When your discernment penetrates the four quarters, are you capable of not knowing anything, which agrees with the literal, When understanding reaches its full extent, can you know nothing?