Exterminate learning and there will no longer be worries. (vrs. 44)
Exterminate the sage, discard the wise,
And the people will benefit a hundredfold;
Exterminate benevolence, discard rectitude,
And the people will again be filial;
Exterminate ingenutiy, discard profit,
And there will be no more thieves and bandits.
These three, being false adornments, are not enough
And the people must have something to which they can attach themselves:
Exhibit the unadorned and embrace the uncarved block,
Have little thought of self and as few desires as possible.
All the worries I have arise from thinking, which in turn is a product of learning. When I’m completely in the moment, all that can bother me is immediate stimuli. And if I’m not hauling around a load of learned expectations, each moment is usually just fine.
Exterminate learning, the sage, benevolence is very hard to accept at first. After all, the sage is highly regarded throughout the scripture. Of course this is why I love the Tao Te Ching. It forces me to let go of preconceptions and dig deeper to uncover more profound knowing. He who has wide learning does not know. [see ch. 81].
The uncarved block helps me reconcile the idea of exterminating these virtues. It alludes to the mysterious sameness. [see ch. 56] before differentiation occurs. Hence when the way was lost there was virtue [see ch. 38]. When the way’s peaceful neutrality is severed, opposites are born, like, learning and ignorance, wise and foolish, benevolence and malevolent. When I embrace the uncarved block, I’m impartial and thinking dies down. My bias toward learning, benevolence and so on fades away, i.e., is gently exterminated.
The quest to discern how thing are always promises more than it delivers. Once discovered, then what; I’m still left here with myself. So for me these false adornments, are not enough. My peace lies at a simpler level than knowing. Have little thought of self and as few desires as possible is as simple as it gets.
Our big human brain has really enabled us to categorize nature. This allows us to innovate in clever ways to get what we desire. For basic survival, this has clear advantages without much of a down-side. Not knowing when to stop, however, has left humanity with a problem. Woe to him who willfully innovates while ignorant of the constant [see ch. 16]. It’s so easy to get lost in thought of self and then rush forward pursuing desires. We forget to STOP, or at least slow down, so we can embrace the uncarved block of simple reality.
I exterminate benevolence by turning back to embrace the uncarved block. Opposites, like wise and fool reunite and their relative differences cancel each other out. But why do I cling so tightly to extremes in the first place? I think I choose sides through insecurity, for the more secure I feel, the more neutral and uncarved I remain.
While I haven’t exterminated learning yet, I have come to distrust thought. Tentative, as if fording a river in winter [see ch. 15] is how I approach my conceptual life. I’m less likely to jump to conclusions (especially when they emphasize differences) and suffer the ensuing emotion turmoil.
Meekness and humility come along with having little thought of self and as few desires as possible. Christ’s view that ‘the meek shall inherit the earth’ has always puzzled me. But seen with a Taoist basis, it makes sense. Only when I have as few desires as possible, am I able to embrace the uncarved block; the uncarved block being ‘the earth’—everything but the narrow object of my desire. It’s like giving up a narrow focus to attain peripheral vision; I give up the part to gain the whole. Having little thought of self and as few desires as possible is what I’m left with as I realize that my ambitious pursuit of desires never brought me the joy they promised. The boldness of youth is gradually giving way to meekness.
Have little thought of self and as few desires as possible parallels part of Buddha’s Second Truth: the illusion of self originates and manifests itself in a cleaving to things. My thought of self goes hand in hand with my desires; each helps generate and exaggerate the other. When I can loosen thought of self, expectations and desires ease up—and visa versa.
Much of life’s stress originates in thought of self battling with self expectations, or other peoples’ self expectations. My sense of right, justice, and fairness are all connected to self needs. Without thought of self, what worries would I have? Only the most immediate irritations would trouble me, and even then, without the expectations, this would be fleeting.
Exhibit the unadorned is a way to be true to the Taoist viewpoint, yet not use it to enlighten the people [see ch. 65]. No matter how simply and anonymously I conduct my life, each person finds something to which they can attach themselves; their judgment but a reflection of their own desires. So all I can really do is conduct my life as straight forward and simply as possible. I’ll eschew attempts to meddle and manipulate situations.