Our perception of difference begins at the cellular level: neurons flip flop between on (+) and off (—). The billions of neural connections in our complex nervous system make for countless ‘not quite on’, ‘not quite off’ indeterminacy. This is like, as chapter 14 puts it, The image that is without substance. This is called indistinct and shadowy. Even so, awareness preferentially notices difference over indeterminacy. The Taoist paradigm’s raison d’être is to turn the tables on this preference for difference awareness… A task easier said than done.
Perceiving indeterminacy, and related impartiality and similarity, is challenging because emotions inherently choose sides: attraction vs. aversion, good vs. bad, happy vs. sad, pleasure vs. pain, gain vs. loss. Chapter 1 notes, These two are the same, but diverge in name as they issue forth. Naming things institutionalizes and enshrines this divergence. Alas, the cat is out of the bag since we begin naming experiences and things from infancy. Why?
Naming the unnamed imparts the security of knowing. Knowing names takes the edge off the unknown. Heck, at least I feel I know something! I’ve often thought of this as a false sense of knowing — an illusion. Yet, I’ll admit that’s going too far the other way. So, to put it more impartially: Names and words deliver neither true nor false knowing. The extent of true vs. false lies in the emotional certainty of the believer, whether speaker or listener.
The more important a belief feels, the more misleading it unavoidably becomes. Here, survival emotions of need and fear are driving the sense of what is important. Chapter 64’s view, ‘desiring not to desire’, sounds like it could help mitigate this. Most religions tout this solution, one way or another, to counteract the negative consequences of emotion. While it may be an appealing ideal, is it realistic? Does this really increase one’s perception of indeterminacy and related impartiality and similarity?
Continually knowing that I don’t know is the secret. As chapter 71’s Chinese characters literally put it, Realizing I don’t’ know is better; not knowing this knowing is disease. The disease returns the moment I forget that I don’t know! As realizing I don’t know becomes visceral and intuitive, chapter 10 comes within reach; as the Chinese characters literally put it, When understanding reaches its full extent, can you know nothing? Then, awareness can notice indeterminacy!