The way is empty, yet use will not drain it.
Deep, it is like the ancestor of the myriad creatures.
Emptiness is the powerhouse that drives the world; nature abhors a vacuum as they say. Of course, we don’t notice emptiness much, and then when we do, we rush to fill it. Of course, emptiness goes by other names: death, failure, weakness, darkness.
The beauty of this verse is that it directs me to ponder empty as the essence of the Tao. While something and nothing do produce each other [see ch. 2], it’s the emptiness of nothing that is fundamental. Thus what we gain is Something, yet it is by virtue of Nothing that this can be put to use.” [see ch. 11]. This is all the more important because I’m biologically pulled toward the somethings of the world as having the most significance.
This Deep, it is like the ancestor of the myriad creatures sure fits the hypothesis of the ‘big bang’. Out of emptiness of nothing came something—mass, energy, space, and time—and from these come the myriad variety of the universe.
Blunt the sharpness;
Untangle the knots;
Soften the glare;
Let your wheels move only along old ruts.
Let your wheels move only along old ruts in the original Chinese is simply same the dust, or settle the dust. This has the feel of routine and duty. When I am doing my duty, extraneous desires, options, and conflicting details are minimal. Of course, if I’m looking for a thrill, ruts feel boring. Softening the glare counteracts stimulation. Part of me looks for life’s stimulations, but this never really delivers what it promises.
Untangling the knots of conflicting desires helps me look deep within myself, or is it that looking deeper within helps me “untangle the knots” of my life? One think is certain—acknowledging the value of a simpler untangled life is helps, regardless of how well I’m able to achieve it. I know ahead of time where to ‘knock’ to find real happiness. As Christ said: ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
My most cherished opinions are like sharp tools and weapons that enable me to to build up and then defend my identity. Such walling up of myself in this ego-fortress gives a false sense of security. Life becomes a me-versus-them experience which isolates me from the whole. And as long as I’m isolated, I can never be truly secure.
Letting my wheels move only along old ruts helps me remember my ‘original’ nature. My ‘original’ nature isn’t easy to describe; it is the quality that has been at the core of my consciousness since birth. It is the seer, not the things seen. The transient desires of the moment distract me (from this seer) and lead me off on wild goose chases. This wouldn’t be such a problem except for the fact that a whole life time is made up of all its small moments—and thus its all too easy to fritter my whole life away.
Old ruts reminds me of animal paths I’ve seen in nature. Human traditions are like life paths. I always had disdain for old traditions; I thought they were merely crutches of blind faith. Their value lies in softening the glare of transitory desire, which simplifies life. A simple life frees my mind to ponder that which is darkly visible.
A sharp and glaring sense of certainty in an ideal or an opinion has always turned out to be an old rut of one of my bypaths. “The great way is easy, yet people prefer by-paths” [see ch. 53]. The ‘ultra simplicity’ of the way both astounds me with how easy it is and, yet how unattainable it can be when I’m distracted by the knots of life.
Darkly visible, it only seems as if it were there.
I know not whose son it is.
It images the forefather of God.
I remember as a small boy wondering what or who made God. What came before God? Thinking that it only seems as if it were there invokes a sense of wonder. It doesn’t say something preceded God, and from a Taoist view I guess it is safer to say that nothing preceded God. And, indeed, nothing is all that I can imagine which would only seem as if it were there.
I know not whose son it is allows me to acknowledge God without having to define it. This helps me connect with other points of view and realize that we are all talking about the same thing, but that we miss the point when we define it.
Darkly visible, it only seems as if it were there has a haunting quality to it. Putting it this way always leaves me with a sense of humble awe. I can rather glibly acknowledge that the way that can be spoken of is not the constant way, but this…. it pulls me deep and makes me face the mystery.
I find that pondering it only seems as if it were there is like listening to silence; I can’t if I’m listening to something, i.e., focused. It is the background. I can glimpse this when I look below the glare of the visible.
It only seems as if it were there helps invoke in me a unifying feeling of connection to everything. When I regard any particular thing as only seeming as if it were there I’m able to blur the ‘me versus that’ identity chasm. Probably the most painful sensation I experience is that of isolation and mortality. This dissipates when I only seem as if I am; this helps me connect with eternity.
Noticing daily events as only seeming as if they were helps me see the relative nature of judgments. For example, if I label today’s weather as HOT!, I end up contending with it more. However, making a more murky determination, like, ‘its warmer than last week’ but ‘cooler than a few years ago’, nudges me toward a more flexible, and peaceful, interaction with today’s weather.