The less I think, the more I know sounds a little odd. It parallels that equally peculiar line in chapter 56, One who knows does not speak; one who speaks does not know. If anything ever begged for elucidation, this does!
The problem with thought lies in the preconceptions necessary to think and speak. This sets up a wall of ‘understanding’ that hinders us from considering anything outside that wall of preconception. Understanding requires relying on the preconceptions — words and names — instilled into our awareness as infants.
Seeing the World through a Blue Filter
Words and names act as filters. Just imagine if, in infancy, your parents attached a permanent blue colored filter to your eyes. The world you would see throughout your life would have a blue tint. Because you would never experience the world without the blue filter, you would not know the range of other colors out there nor even a color called blue. In other words, you can only know you are seeing a color if you experience it contrasted with another color. In short, contrast = information = contrast = information…
You would ‘understand’ the world was blue, even while unaware of the word blue or that you were seeing through a blue filter. Only your parents would know everything you saw was tinted blue. In this same way, the framework of language is a real impediment to seeing the world as it actually is. We see it through our language filter, and this easily chokes off a sense of anything beyond that filter.
Alcohol and drugs can jar that filter a bit, especially the hallucinogenic ones, which may be why we use them. Nevertheless, these just substitute one filter for another — the ‘drug’ filter. On the plus side, such drugs can jar our preconception’s filter and open up other angles of awareness. On the down side, it can unhinge any mind very dependent on the ‘normal’ filter. It is no wonder that drugs tend to pose a threat to the cornerstones of civilization’s norms.
The Taoist worldview simply attempts to weaken the normal filter – words and names. Some example include:
And of course, The name that can be named is not the constant name #1.
Then the Tao Te Ching doubles down on all this with, To know yet to think that one does not know is best #71.
I can understand why civilization would not jump on a Taoist bandwagon. Populations need everyone to be on the same cultural page. That means a culture’s people need to share a belief in the validity of their myths, traditions, music, art, food, etc. Indeed, I can’t think of any exception — the more conformity the better. What ties all this together naturally is the common ground of language — words and names. Civilization needs is citizens marching to beat of the same drum — a high entropy state (1) of minimum information and maximum uniformity. That just doesn’t sit well with a free spirit, does it? Yet, on the other hand, it increases the sense of an egalitarian tribal unity.
(1) Entropy is a useful and perhaps odd way of understanding this situation. Contrast between individual bits is what makes information. Such a state of distinctness or individuality is a low entropy state. There is a universal ‘pull’ on lower entropy states to increase in entropy, become more homogeneous, uniform. As entropy increases, the situation becomes more stable.
A native language is a way of increasing entropy and thus stability. Other ways a culture’s people increase entropy is by eating the same foods, wearing the same clothing styles, and of course, practicing the same religion! All are ways that increase uniformity and stability and so effectively increase entropy. Perhaps thermodynamics offers a more fundamental way of understanding and explains the vigor behind revolutionary movements and free spirited rebellious teenagers. Enough already, it’s time for dinner. One final thought: what does Using Yin and Yang to Pop Preconceptions do as far as entropy is concerned, increase it, or decrease it?