Chapter 56’s, One who speaks does not know has intrigued me most of my thinking life. I came across this D.C. Lao translation in Vietnam, of all places, in the early 60’s. I’ve referred to it often over the decades in various ways, and it launches the overview of CenterTao.org. (See One who speaks does not know?, p.602.)
My insight into this truth deepened recently when I realized that we only really understand what we already know. Thought leapfrogs reality. Thought can’t intuitively grasp the subtle face of reality. Only years of one’s own life’s experience does that, and even that gut knowing is often below thought’s horizon — sub-thought so to speak. Essentially, this suggests that we can only find genuine answers to life’s puzzles by looking within. Chapter 47 says as much, Without going out the door, we can know all under heaven, Without looking out the window, we can see nature’s way.
Strongly held biases and preferences easily drown out intuitive knowing. Emotions — needs and fears — are the power broker behind our thoughts. Accordingly, only in moments of deep emotional equanimity are we balanced and impartial. Only then are we able to know what we know without biases skewing our understanding.
I imagine the suggestion that we only understand what we already know sounds odd. This also implies that we can only learn from others what we already intuitively know. When I first suggested it to my family, they just rolled their eyes. It took awhile for them to digest the idea. I have to admit, I circled around this ‘elephant in the room’ for some years before facing it head on. (See, I understand, but do I know?, p.70; Those Who Speak Do Not Know. So, Why Speak?, p.1; Learning What You Know, p.112, and You Know, p.203.) Obviously, this fascinates me. This, and realizing free will is an illusion, really bursts the bubble of common knowledge.