I got to thinking over yesterday’s Beyond Spooky (p.149) post. In particular, I was wondering what effect, if any; the capitalization of proper names has on Western thought. One thing I appreciate about Chinese characters is the lack of capitalization. The character 道 (dào or tao) means road, way, path; channel, course; way, path; doctrine, principle; Taoism, Taoist; superstitious sect; line; say, talk, speak; think, suppose. However, the only way to distinguish between road and capital ‘T’ Taoism is through context, not capitalization. By design, capitalization skews perception toward elitism — or at least does nothing to counteract it.
I think of myself as a small ‘t’ Taoist, but my computer automatically changes the small ‘t’ that I type to a capital T. Thinking of myself as a small ‘t’ rather than a capital ‘T’ Taoist feels more egalitarian, impartial, and connected to the whole. In other words, less tribal and more in line with chapter 67…
The whole world says that my way is vast and resembles nothing. It is because
it is vast that it resembles nothing. If it resembled anything, it would, long
before now, have become small.
Without capitalization, the way resembles nothing out of the ordinary. With capitalization, The Way lends an air of distinction and promotes a wall of difference. This is just the opposite of vast and resembles nothing.
Such walls only heighten the perceived difference between groups, be they political, religious, ethnic, sports, nation-states, etc. While such tribal associations are innate and natural, walls only hinder comprehension of chapter 56’s This is known as mysterious sameness. As chapter 20 puts it, Vulgar people are clear. I alone am drowsy. Vulgar people are alert. I alone am muddled.
Carl Abbott says
A major difficulty we humans face arises from how seriously we associate thought—names and language—with reality. Language requires definition, yet nature is beyond definition. Definition, by focusing on the particular differences, smothers our awareness of nature, even as it empowers us to manipulate nature. Chapter 71 calls this disease… Realizing I don’t know is better; not knowing this knowing is disease.
Of course, humanity is not going to change. The best we can do is acknowledge our weakness and take as much care as we can to “realize I don’t’ know”. Even that requires being extremely present, which is made very difficult by how easily we get lost in our thought (virtual) reality.
Capitalization of words is just another way to bolster the overarching social hierarchy in civilization. The lack of capitalization in Chinese is a bit refreshing, as are other aspects of the language. Naturally, the Chinese have many other ways to bolster their hierarchical social setting.
I find it helps to conform to the hierarchical illusion generally (superficially), while in my silent deep awareness know that this is the way we play this game. Knowing the reality I pretend is real is not the reality that exists “nearly rising beyond oneself”. As the end of chapter 16 puts it,
Knowing the constant allows, allowing therefore impartial,
Impartial therefore whole, whole therefore natural,
Natural therefore the way.
The way therefore long enduring, nearly rising beyond oneself.
Thank you for your post. I will consider it’s content when writing out “Tao Te Ching”. I stumbled upon it when unsure about capitalization as I have a tendency to write it as “Tao te Ching” and I think it has to do with the similarity between “te” and “the” which in a title I often leave lowercase. “Te” however is not an article in this case per se. Would like to hear your thoughts on the matter. Again, appreciate the post 🙂