Recently my friend Andy teased me about my “fixation on same same”, as he put it. My habit of noticing similarities between apparent opposites bugs him a little.
“Fixation on same same” was his response to my comment, “Folks on the left use folks on the right as scapegoats and vice versa”. The underlying needs and fears of each side drive their partisan ideals. Blinded by emotion, they are unable to realize that they are different in name only”. Later I had to ask myself, is my so-called “fixation on same same” also a blind spot?
It isn’t for one primary reason. Finding similarities between opposites calms emotions, which then defuses preconceptions. Molehills become molehills again. Additionally, finding numerous examples of similarities between ostensibly unrelated matters can also indicate that the molehill you are seeing may be something real, and not a projection your emotions are conjuring up. Indeed, the real can only appear after emotions calm down. As chapter 16 notes, Knowing the constant allows, allowing therefore impartial, and chapter 55 hints, Knowing harmony is called the constant. Knowing the constant is called clear and honest.
All the same, I must have blind spots. I just can’t see them while I’m debating matters with Andy. After all, we are inevitably describing different parts of the elephant (1). Noteworthy here is how different issues trigger our fairness instinct (2). Andy objects to the unfair income distribution caused by Republicans. I object to the unfairness of him just singling out those Republican ‘devils’. I see just as much, albeit different, malfeasance on the Democratic side. In short, self-interest always comes with double standards.
To avoid double standards, two phases must play out: First, simple blind instinct discerns the differences I see. Next, I “fixate” on those differences until they blend and become “same sameness”. Why bother? Certainly, perceiving differences is stimulating, as nature intends. However, when the perception of differences dead-ends in irresolvable ways, it’s time to seek out the peace of impartiality. As chapter 16 begins, Devote effort to emptiness, sincerely watch stillness. Everything ‘out there’ rises up together, and I watch again. Everything ‘out there’, one and all, return again to their root cause.
A desert’s “same sameness” open the mind
While camping in the middle of the Sahara desert, I reached a point of total disillusionment with humanity’s ideals and hypocrisy. As chapter 18 notes, When intelligence increases, there is great falseness. In wake of this experience, I began forming a singular appreciation of nature’s wisdom. By all indications, nature always moves toward balance. Balance is the bottom line, regardless of how dynamic the change is at any moment. For me, arriving at a balanced view became essential… no more hypocritically blaming scapegoats.
This means that when I notice myself favoring one point of view over another, I immediately know that this is a projection of my own self-interest. My current biased view is out-of-sync with nature. That relentlessly drives me to find ways to see the whole picture—equal and balanced. Correlations often help. (See Tools of Taoist Thought p.565.)
The full picture I end up seeing is usually beyond description. As chapter 14 notes, Unending, it cannot be named, and again returns to no-thing. This is called the without of shape form, the without of matter shape. Happily, this helps verify that I’m close to perceiving truth. As chapter 56 puts it, This is called profound sameness. Only here can I find a peaceful state of mind, and so I’ll opt for ‘fixation on same same’ over ‘fixation on differences’ any day, especially when a differences point-of-view causes stress.
(1) Debating anything requires a blind spot. (Google [John Cleese on the Blind Spot] and [The Blind Men and the Elephant].) Social interaction requires us to take sides to keep the conversation alive. Frankly, impartially is too serene to be socially engaging or interesting. Thus, as chapter 1 says, Hence, normally without desire so as to observe its wonder. Normally having desire so as to observe its boundary.
(2) The primal survival instincts of need and fear drive all animals. Social animals have another innate drive that I loosely refer to as the fairness instinct. It is ubiquitous, and underlies anger, jealously, envy, resentment, etc. Google [Unfair Trade: Monkeys demand equitable exchanges] and see A Symptom’s Point Of View, p.141.
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