In Matthew 7:7-8, Jesus says, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. This is profoundly true, although I expect often misinterpreted. For example, I pray, “God, I want a new car”, and hope God hears me and thinks, “Sure, here you are”.
I would add to these three (ask, seek, knock) a forth, ‘look and ye shall see’. Naturally, you won’t see immediately or sufficiently, but you’ll see more than if you never look. There is more to this though.We can look but not see, listen but not hear, touch but not feel, and so on. I suppose it comes down to what we settle for. We look and see something, listen and hear something, etc., and easily end up missing everything else lying beyond or deeper. It is not the seeking that limits, it is the finding that can blind us. As chapter 44 and 64 imply, ‘The more we hold on, the deeper the loss’, and ‘Of doing we fail, Of holding on we lose’.
My early and firmly held belief in free will speaks to this blindness. For forty-some years, I ‘knew’ I had free will. I imagined I could do anything I set my mind to. It was the correlation’s process, I think, that began chipping away at this core belief. Then, while out in the driveway one day, it dawned on me that any notion I held about being truly independent was an absurd self-serving fantasy. If this was true, what did it imply for freewill and free choice?
Eventually, it seemed obvious to me that my belief in freewill was a projection of my own needs — a need to have freewill, just like my notion of independence was a projection of my need to be independent. Emotional need created a self-fulfilling ‘prophecy’, so to speak. I then began to wonder how this ‘You want it; you’ve got it’ illusion plays out in other areas of life. What was need really, and most importantly for me, what was its source?
Why? Why? Why?
I began to suspect “fear” to be the source spring of need, but that seemed ludicrous in some ways. I felt them to be opposite emotions. Fear was an aversion emotion; need was an attraction emotion — a Yin and a Yang. How could fear be the mother of need? One (need) pulled toward, the other (fear) pushed away.
I clearly see now that fear is the origin of need. True, they are complimentary emotions, but fear is the origin. Naturally, merely saying that doesn’t explain it; in fact, explaining it can do just the opposite and muddy the water. Fortunately, many common colloquialisms parallel Taoist points of view, and hit the nail right on the head. In this case, “nature abhors a vacuum” says it best.
The correlation’s process tells us that a vacuum shares the same reality as a void, and likewise, void ≈ emptiness ≈ silence ≈ stillness ≈ loss ≈ darkness ≈ death, and other passive vacuum states, as it were. Simply said: need ≈ life; fear ≈ death(1). Of the two, death is the base, the root, the pre-source, the ‘before the big-bang’ reality. It is the power of Nothing: Hence, of having what is thought favorable, of the nothing think as the useful and All under heaven is born in having, Having is born in nothing.
“Be the same as dust”
‘Look and ye shall see’ helps get to the bottom of things, so I keep looking and seeing. The deeper I look, the simpler the view. When I feel confused, agitated or irritated, I know it is because I am only seeing the choppy surface waters of reality’s deep ocean. Slowing down to look more deeply always helps me to Subdue its sharpness, untie its tangles, Soften its brightness, be the same as dust…
Now I could go on and on about this as we know. For example, the ‘Look and ye shall see’ is more about looking inward, and not to what is ‘out there’, i.e., ‘out there’ being merely a reflection of what is within. As chapter 47 puts it, Without going out the door we can know all under heaven. Without looking out the window we can see Nature’s way. But no! It is time to take the advice of chapter 44, Knowing when to stop, never dangerous. Then you can long endure.
(1) Looking over the last 70 years, it is apparent that I’ve always failed to see the point of anything whenever I really got down to it. I never bought the story lines (rationales) given to me by my parents firs, then my school, and then American culture at large. At age 20, I set off to explore the world, yet 15 years and continents of countries later I still found no point. I surmise that this innate quirk in my nature continually drives me to look deeper in pursuit of the ‘point’. That is a very inefficient way to go about life. It is like rediscovering the wheel repeatedly. On the other hand, this inability to take anything at all for granted guarantees that I will always end up seeing outside the box.
This ‘what’s the point’ personality trait really hit home when my brother died. He was 18 and I was 22 at the time. Up until then, death was just an abstraction without a ‘point’; I never had any personal experience with it. Suddenly, death was real; still, what was the ‘point’? Why life? Why death? Why? No cultural story could answer that sufficiently for me, so I looked deeper and deeper, for months on end, day after day. Finally, I reached the resolution I was looking for. Put simply, life and death are the same thing. The Tao Te Ching puts this in general terms, Hence existence and nothing give birth to one another, and of course, profound sameness.