Without stirring abroad
One can know the whole world;
Without looking out of the window
One can see the way of heaven.
The further one goes
The less one knows.
There are two ways to know. First, there is factual knowing which is based on information. Unwittingly we equate this worldly way with true knowing which comes with maturity, i.e., to know reality from illusion, to know what IS from that which I wish to be. This knowing is wisdom which comes without stirring abroad. Until I realized the difference, I spent a lot of effort pursuing the former, while actually needing the latter. Alas though, there was no short cut:”If you would have a thing laid aside, you must first set it up”; [see ch. 36].
I always feel the push to go further when I am lacking what I need right here and now. In youth, I wanted to know what life was all about. I thought I could find out by traveling the world and reading. I read and I traveled—15 years going around the world 7 times. I stopped when I finally realized that without stirring abroad, one can know the whole world. I discovered that all the apparent worldly differences were skin deep and that reality lies in similarities; This is known as mysterious sameness. [see ch. 56]
My life is a struggle between what I know to be true, i.e., where contentment lies, and my desire to goes further. When I rationalize my desires, the truth I know fades into the background of consciousness, and off I go.
The exterior world is truly irrelevant when it comes to knowing reality. Knowing depends on my mind/eye which observes. Christ said: ‘The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!’ Note: ‘single’ when of the eye is defined as seeing rightly. Buddha placed Right Understanding at the head of his Eight Fold Path. Knowing truth, seeing rightly, right understanding… this determines my whole life. I act and react according to how I see things. Alas, as this verse alludes to, it all occurs within. And, from a Taoist perspective anyway, The further one goes, the less one knows.
I’ve struggled with music for years, always feeling that the answer lay out there and all I had to do was go further (more books, teachers, techniques) to find what I needed. This path never brought me contentment. I now look within, and uncover ‘my’ music there. Contentment comes readily. It’s the joy I always sought, but never could feel for I was always looking in the wrong place. You can’t know what lies within (right here) by going further out there.
Society’s theme is just the opposite of this. We think we can know the whole world by stirring abroad; we can see the way of heaven by looking out of the window; the further one goes, the more one knows. Why is this society’s theme? Society only reflects its members and their instincts! It’s not society’s fault, but our own.
Therefore the sage knows without having to stir,
Identifies without having to see,
Accomplishes without having to act.
My need to identify (differentiate) and accomplish (act) is based in my survival instinct, my biology. So often, though, my survival is not at stake. It’s a sense of well-being and self worth that I’m seeking through action and seeing. When I pull back and regain perspective, I can feel I’m accomplishing whether I’m acting or not. I can feel I’m identifying reality without having to see all the facts.
The sense of accomplishment that comes through action is very fleeting. As soon as the goal is accomplished, I quickly find myself back in the beginning, chasing yet another desire that if accomplished will surely bring me peace. How can I ever expect to find something when I look in the wrong place for it? I must stop and return instead. Returning brings with it a constant sense of accomplishment as long as I’m returning. Returning is not object oriented but rather a path; it’s a direction, which if anything moves toward non-object nothing-ness.
Accomplishes without having to act is similar to One who knows does not speak; one who speaks does not know. [see ch. 56], which always bothered me as I like to talk (and act). My difficulty arose from linking the two—accomplishing needs action, speech needs knowing. I realize now these are independent of each other, and so I can act and speak as nature demands.