“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” is a familiar quote from William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet, in which Juliet argues that the name of a thing does not matter, only what a thing is.
The sticking point here is over, “It depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is”, as President Clinton once said. In other words, if you need to see differences you will. If you need to see similarities, you will. The question is which point of view leads to truth most efficiently?
For example, Google [Atheists Erect A Public Monument – NPR] for a report on the first atheist monument to be displayed on U.S. government property. The monument is near a black granite display of the Ten Commandments installed in the courtyard of the Bradford County Courthouse.
Atheists and Theists come across to me as ‘roses by any other name’. One believes ‘no’ and the other believes ‘yes’… yet, both believe! As chapter 56 observes, This is called profound sameness. It is interesting how this Taoist observation parallels Shakespeare’s “A rose by any other name….” dialogue.
Taoism, Monism, Dualism, and on…
I was looking up something related to the Upanishads, and stumbled onto monism and related -isms. That got me wondering if chapter 1’s These two are the same coming out, yet differ in name and chapter 56’s This is called profound sameness represent the definitive core of the Taoist worldview, or are they simply syncretic gateways to that worldview. (Syncretism concentrates on the essential unity of human belief systems, rather than their differences). Here’s an overview of monism, dualism and pluralism …
Monism is a point of view within metaphysics which argues that the variety of existing things in the universe are reducible to one substance or reality, and therefore that the fundamental character of the universe is unity. Contrasting with this point of view is dualism, which asserts that there are two ultimately irreconcilable substances or realities, with consciousness on the one hand and matter on the other. Another is pluralism that asserts any number of fundamental substances or realities more than two. Monisms may be theologically syncretic by proposing there is one God who has many manifestations in the diverse religious traditions.
The Tribal Instinct Drives Differences
Clearly, we can and do pick reality apart and emphasize those differences endlessly. As I said above, if you want to see differences you will. I’ve come to see this behavior as driven by an instinctive need to differentiate ‘the true’ from ‘the false’. We identify the true side and join that side. Then we haggle with those who chose the false side, which certainly satisfies our tribal instincts. But, what prompts us to differentiate the true from the false in the first place? Considering this from a symptoms point of view, our desperation to name reality must arise from fear. We need to restrict nature as chapter 32 says:
Okay, why do we feel compelled to restrict nature? To answer this, I look to nature as experienced by the other animals. Like all animals, we choose what pleases us and reject that which displeases us. Pleasure and pain (attraction and aversion) tip the scales for all living creatures. Naming confers the illusion that we have some control over nature. Naming allows us to manipulate our relationship with nature and bend it to our will… bend it to accommodate our needs and fears.
This can be difficult to acknowledge because we have a stake in not seeing reality impartially… just the contrary. We need to bolster our biases and thus fear any countervailing evidence that might compromise our beliefs.
The Ego Makes Its Stand
I have a hard time identifying the idea of an ego apart from a relationship to otherness. In a sense, ego is the counterpoint to other. The more connected my psyche has become to otherness, the less ego I seem to experience. The Hindu dictum Tat Tvam Asi (“You are that,” or “That you are,” ) sums it up.
Oddly, I expect this matter is irresolvable. Fundamentally, I am probing the workings of the nervous system with my nervous system. This is why it helps to contemplate the simplest forms of life. For instance, finding similarity between ants and humans helps me avoid some misdirection due to my complex nervous system, hypothetically anyway. See also, Ants are Us (p.216) and Self Integrity, Slime, and Karma, (p.91).