Research reported in Science News (Google: Slime mold is master network engineer), helps exemplify the impetus to maintain self-integrity that I discussed in my last post on Extinguishing Self. First, consider this quote from that research.
“The slime mold has no central brain or indeed any awareness of the overall problem it is trying to solve, but manages to produce a structure with similar properties to the real rail network…” [This behavior] “is really difficult to capture by words,”
I see this impetus to maintain self-integrity as a force extending throughout creation. It is the driving force to be, to do, and to succeed, and results in feats of engineering in humans and slime molds alike.
On the surface, humans and slime molds appear vastly different. Viewed more deeply, the only significant difference I see is that we have a disease of thinking that we know, as chapter 71 put it, whereas the mold just knows without thinking that it knows. By regarding ourselves as a special species (e.g., wise, intelligent, free willed, etc.), we lack the humility to observe impartially. Rather than feeling all that we share with the rest of creation, we feel ourselves alone and separate from the rest of creation, and suffer as a result. We are incapable of feeling that mysterious sameness to which chapter 56 refers. Ah, to return to the innocent humble bliss of the slime mold. 😉
Karma, in the broadest sense, can help us return in spirit to the innocent bliss of slime mold. The hitch here is that returning, as opposed to moving up the karmic ladder, is traditionally viewed as a consequence of bad actions in life — bad karma. Obviously, from a slime mold’s point of view, if it had one, just the opposite would be the case. From its point of view, moving up the karmic ladder toward a thinking human state would be a result of bad action in life — bad karma. Karma, like beauty, lies in the eye of the beholder.
If that’s sounds silly, so too are the self-centric human ideals of good and bad as chapter 2 bluntly notes, The whole world recognizes the good as the good, yet this is only the bad. Ideals are simply thought-projections of what pleases us (attraction) or pains us (repulsion). Indeed, I see no good, beautiful, bad, or ugly in Nature, either in the wild or in humanity. While humans do some very destructive things to each other and nature, these are only symptoms of nature’s pendulum like balancing act playing out within us, and not the result of misdirected free will, evil spirits, or the devil.
As Christ said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). The Taoist version of that could be chapter 70’s, It is because people are ignorant that they fail to understand me. That brings us back to the disease called out in chapter 71. A disease the Tao Te Ching attempts to ameliorate.