Now and then, I refer to the blind spot as our main impediment to understanding. What is the blind spot? Put simply, the blind spot = emotion + thought. The loudest emotions are need and fear (1). When those roar, they are all we can hear. In How the Hoodwink Hooks, (p.100) I first explain how desire = need + thought and worry = fear + thought. Obviously then, the blind spot = desire & worry.
The stronger and more compelling our core emotions feel, the deeper the blindness becomes. However, this is also when we need a deeper understanding. It is as if the house is on fire, yet the water to put it out is inside the house.
The emotional side of this is instinctive and so nearly impossible to influence directly. Thought, on the other hand, can be more malleable, offering a gateway out of this mess. This means realizing and appreciating how severely thought + emotion blindsides us. This is step one.
Emotion sees (feels) the trees. It can’t see the forest. Naturally, feeling trees is wonderful. However, during emotional upheavals, it helps knowing this is ALL you’re seeing. This means a sliver of your awareness realizes and remembers you’re not seeing the forest — the big picture. Simply put, Realizing I don’t know is better, not knowing this realization is disease.
Emotion is innate and real. Thought, although innate biologically, is not real in its own right. Emotion steers and skews thought, which then conjures up rationalizations that support the emotion. Rationalizations then re-stimulate emotion, pulling ones awareness into what can become a vicious emotion + thought circle. Being aware of this vortex is not much different from being aware that driving fast is inherently dangerous. Thus…
Assume It’s False: Suspect Everything
Sounds paranoid, doesn’t it? Of course, if a paranoid person actually followed that advice they wouldn’t be paranoid. By assuming your perception is false and suspecting the veracity of everything, paranoia dies on the vine. In short, paranoia requires you to trust your perceptions are actually true.
Suspect everything could also sound conspiratorial. Indeed, conspiratorial stories are quite wide spread. Perhaps these are paranoid light. Conspiracies seem to focus mostly on centers of power, i.e., government, corporations, police, religion, politics. It is as though they know what they are doing well enough to conspire adeptly. To the contrary, I’d think.
To be more specific, I should say, suspect everything and then suspect those suspicions… and so on. Doing this helps you become more circumspect and as a result increases your emotional reaction time. Trading cognitive certainty for hesitancy is an essential aspect of a Taoist approach to living. Chapter 15 puts it nicely…
He alone cannot be known, hence his strength lies in allowing.
He prepares as if fording a river in winter; as if like in fear of neighbors;
Solemn that seems to allow; vanishing like ice that melts away;
Honest that is like simple; broad that is like a valley;
Blending that is like muddy water; tranquil that is like the sea.
Circular as if without end.
Who can be muddy as well as still to gently clarify.
Who can be calm as well as aroused to gently live.
Keeping to this way, he desires not to be full.
Therefore, only he who is not full can conceal and yet newly become.
If you are able to put the ‘it’ of anything into words, simultaneously being able to assume ‘it’ is false will give you time to let ‘it’ prove itself. Such emptying mental certainty is your ticket to the newly become mentioned in the last line of chapter 15, above.
Naturally, the same tenet doesn’t apply to pure sensory input. When your eyes see the colors of a sunset, they truly experience the color. Only when the mind labels the experience “beautiful” would it be wise to deem the label false. When your nose smells something repugnant, it truly experiences that odor. Naming the odor repugnant distorts, amplifies, and blindsides. When the mind attaches labels, it is safest to suspect them all.
Chapter 70 begins with, Our words very easy to know, very easy to do, but then cautions, Under heaven none can know, none can do. Even so, there is hope if you strive to see beyond what passes for common sense. These lines help point the way…
(1) The instinctive sense of fear and need are core emotions. For some more background, see One who speaks does not know (p.602). Need is ultimately driven by fear, at the deepest level. It is easy to misunderstand fear if you focus on the symptoms (effects) it leaves in its wake. Chapter 40’s Loss through death, of the way ‘it’ uses outlines what happens: Living things experience fear as an emotional drive to avoid the loss of anything, with death being the ultimate loss we fear. Need simply offsets the constant threat of entropy… that loss through death foundation of nature’s process. (See Symptoms Point Of View, p.141)