I occasionally 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. Clearly then, the blind spot = desire & worry.
The stronger and more compelling our emotions feel, the deeper the blindness becomes. Unfortunately, this is precisely the moment we need 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. On the other hand, thought is a little more malleable and so offers a gateway out of this mess. The prerequisite for this is sincerely realizing how severely thought + emotion blindsides us.
Emotion perceives (feels) the trees. It can’t see the forest. Naturally, feeling trees is nice. However, during emotional turmoil, it helps to know that the emotion you’re feeling is blinding you. Thus, a sliver of your awareness must realize and remember you’re not seeing the forest — the big picture. As chapter 71 cautions, Realizing I don’t know is better, not knowing this realization is disease.
Emotion is innate and real. Thought, although innate biologically, is not as 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. Conspiratorial stories are paranoid light and focus mostly on centers of power, i.e., government, corporations, religion, politics. It is as though these powers know what they are doing well enough to conspire adeptly… quite to the contrary.
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 can put your perception of something into words and yet concurrently assume that that very perception is faulty, gives you time to let the perception verify itself. Such weakening of mental certainty is a way to conceal and yet newly become, as chapter 15 put it.
Naturally, the same principle 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 a label, it is safest to suspect the label.
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. Consider these lines…
When understanding reaches its full extent, can you know nothing? #10
This is called the without shape form, the without substance shape. #14
(1) The instinctive sense of fear and need are core emotions. For some more background, see What is the root of thought? (p.602). At its deepest level, need is driven by fear. It is easy to misunderstand fear if you focus on the symptoms (effects) that fear leaves in its wake. Chapter 40’s Loss through death, of the way it uses reveals nature’s process, i.e., living things experience fear as an emotional drive to avoid the loss of anything, with death being the ultimate loss life fears. Need simply offsets the continuous threat of entropy, i.e., entropy being the loss through death basis of nature’s process. (See Symptoms Point Of View, p.141)
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