The way is for ever nameless.
Though the uncarved block is small
No one in the world dare claim its allegiance.
Should lords and princes be able to hold fast to it
The myriad creatures will submit of their own accord,
Heaven and earth will unite and sweet dew will fall,
And the people will be equitable, though no one so decrees.
Only when it is cut are there names.
As soon as there are names
One ought to know that it is time to stop.
Knowing when to stop one can be free from danger.
Each moment presents a simple choice; I can either hold fast to the way, or hold fast to my expectations and ideals. In fact, I don’t really have a choice in which I choose. I’ll hold fast to what I REALLY WANT to hold fast to. Therefore the sage desires not to desire. [see ch. 64]. In truth, this is not something I can try to do; I either do it or not. I can only hold fast to the way when I let go of desires… or as Buddha said ‘who’s will is bent on what he ought to do’.
When I hold fast to the way, everything submits of its own accord; the universe is perfect—nothing needs changing. Of course, it didn’t change, my perspective did. When I’m content and free of ideals, I’m able to know the uncarved block. Everything becomes simpler when I can stop and allow nature to take its course.
The people will be equitable when differences are minimum. That’s why it’s wise to stop as soon as there are names. Going on further only increases the contrast between the names. Blunt the sharpness; Untangle the knots; Soften the glare[see ch. 4].
Cutting the uncarved block is how the human mind works, so I’m stuck with the names. After that, though, the wiser I become, the more hesitant and tentative I am when using names (language).
Holding fast to it the way takes great inward directed effort. Whenever I feel content and I’m not present in this way, instinct begins driving my attention; I soon begin to innovate and pursue some ideal or desire. I think the whole problem lies in the fact that I have the same bio-energy as a primeval ape man, but live in civilized conditions. The ape used up all his energy dealing with simple hunting and gathering in nature. I go to the fridge and have that taken care of quickly, which leaves extra time and energy looking for something to do.
The uncarved block if freedom from desire. Desire is what pushes me to separate out ‘this’ from ‘that’ and make distinctions. I want this, not that, which makes holding fast to it tricky. The more I desire to hold fast to it the further out of reach it becomes! Ironically, letting go is how I’m able to hold fast. This reminds me of what Christ said: ‘Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it’. Luke-17:33
While holding fast to it is still problematic, at least I now know what’s going on. I know when I’m going off in the opposite direction. Then it’s just a simple matter of how much I care to stop. In the end, I really get only what I REALLY WANT. How can I control what I really want? I can’t. It’s the bottom line, the root of will. Whatever ‘free choice’ I think I have in life, it is still governed by what I really want.
I pretty much always know when it was time to stop. Having the will to do so is another matter. Each moment of life seems to present two paths: ‘short term pain followed by long term pleasure’ and ‘short term pleasure followed by long term pain’. Holding fast to the way is the former path; it requires effort up-front, but carries with it long term contentment. The latter path reminds me of Buddha’s Second Noble Truth: ‘The surrounding world effects sensation and begets a craving thirst that clamors for immediate satisfaction; the illusion of self originates and manifests itself in a cleaving to things; the desire to live for the enjoyment of self entangles us in a net of sorrow—pleasures are the bait and the result is pain’.
The way is to the world as the River and the Sea are to rivulets and streams.
This reflects the mysterious nature of reality for me. The world flows into the way as streams flow into the Sea. Whenever I hold on to present conditions or ideals for the future, I’m meddling with this flow. I do this in the hope of increasing my security. I’m driven by the instinct that if I get what I want, I’ll be secure and content. Of course, this only ‘dams’ up the flow and I end up feeling just as lost as ever.
This speaks to a deep truth of inevitability. Worldly events are like rivulets which move inexorably to the way as rivulets run to the River. Isn’t this what consciousness experiences?