Chapter of the Week: #19 [Archive]

How much of human thought or action is actually original? I know we think we are a creative and original specie of animal, but are we truly? Sure, we are 'different' from other animals (that brain), but the differences we see are simply an accumulation of 50,000 years of stumbing around and getting lucky once in awhile.

All my experience suggests that nearly All we do or think is formed through group (tribal) consensus. Sure, each 'monkey' adds his bit. But, as Einstein said, "I'm standing on the shoulders of giants" (50,000 years worth). Most of the bits we add are just rearrangements of other bits and pieces. It is like we each have a room full of furniture in our mind. We move the furniture around - different points of view - but no one is the 'master carpenter' creating his own furniture. We arrive into 'adulthood' with a mind space fully furnished with words - and a set of parochial world-views formed by them. Sure, we may throw out some of this furniture, trade it or borrow someone else's, but nothing new is actually created in the deepest sense of that word. Earth has its carbon cycle and water cycle... we have our perception and preconception cycle. Correlations gives us a way to look at the furniture, examine it, feel it, and maybe even shrink and weaken it enough so it can [chref=36]be laid aside[/chref] somewhat... at least enough to peek into [chref=1]the gateway of the manifold secrets[/chref] :shock: :o :? :|


  • edited December 1969
    Each week we address one chapter of the Tao Te Ching. Chapter 19 was originally featured on the 2nd week in December, 2005.

    Note: The Tao Te Ching can be obscure, especially if you think you're supposed to understand what it's saying! We find it easier and more instructive to simply contemplate how the chapter resonates with your personal experience. Becoming more aware at this fundamental level simplifies life. This approach conforms to the view that true knowing lies within ourselves. Thus, when a passage in the scripture resonates, you've found your inner truth. The same applies for when it evokes a question; questions are the grist for self realization.

    Chapter 19
    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.
    Exterminate learning and there will no longer be worries.
  • edited December 1969
    [Note: I italicize phrases I borrow from the chapter, and link to phrases I borrow from other chapters to help tie chapters together. While making it more tedious to read, :? the Tao Te Ching is best pondered in the context of the whole.]

    I view these three 'Exterminates' as descriptive of the natural process. Obviously, if live on earth wasn't driven to self gain (profit), there would no predation, i.e., thieves and bandits. Animals eat plants and each other, and we eat them all and each other - metaphorically at least. :wink:

    These 'Exterminates' are false adornments in the sense that they are negatives. Like Mrs. Reagan's "just say NO", they are not enough. Life doesn't proceed through the negative. Life begins with the positive, birth, and gradually revolves toward the negative, death. Civilization is drawn to take shortcuts through [chref=57]taboos[/chref], negations, bans, and moral [chref=38]rectitude and rites[/chref] - none of which work, for they go against the natural process. The Buddhist notion of non-attachment is no different. Remember, Nature abhors a vacuum.

    We must have something to which we can attach ourselves. Is this idea of exhibiting the unadorned and embracing the uncarved block enough? This points to an approach to life, attitude rather than [chref=43]action[/chref]. Can I attach myself to an attitude? That is a much more [chref=15]subtle[/chref] proposition, of course. It is much easier to just go out and buy a new car on which to attach.

    For me, in the end, it comes down to how much is enough. Enough occurs a lot sooner when I'm eating carrots than when I'm eating chocolate cake. Where does contentment lie. Obviously, [chref=46] in being content, one will always have enough[/chref]. Live simply and have little thought of self and as few desires as possible. It works! [chref=65]But when things turn back... [/chref]
  • edited December 1969
    Carl, do we really need to attach ourselves to an attitude? It seems to me that the 'must' here refers to a societal byproduct, rather than instruction. In other words, there is no inherent value in attaching ourselves to things or ideas ...... that we do this is a byproduct of whatever civilization we live in. My buddy the lion does not attach himselves to attitudes .......

    Also, I wonder if your carrot vs. cake tolerance has something to do with upbringing and exposure. Eskimo children think raw fish eyeballs a real treat ...... is your (and my) preference for cake more a byproduct of western upbringing then a vestigil craving?
  • edited December 1969
    [cite] mikequinn:[/cite]1)... My buddy the lion does not attach himselves to attitudes

    2)... is your (and my) preference for cake more a byproduct of western upbringing then a vestigial craving?

    Hi Mike, It's rainy and cold outside so I'm warming myself by the sparkling crackling light of the computer, and filling up the web board with a backlog of ponderings. Now, lets see here...

    1) Well, sure he does. He just doesn't 'worry' about his attitude.

    2) Our biology is hardwired to experience pleasure from high caloric food - sugars and fats. In the wild no animal has an unlimited source of such food, i.e., no Costco or Safeway. It is no mystery to me why the wealthiest nation on earth is getting obese. The instinct to eat one's fill of rich food, if available, is common to all animals - those with 'free will' and those without ... (I just couldn't resist :lol:)

    Remember, looking for and finding similarities, to the point of [chref=56]mysterious sameness[/chref], helps us [chref=52]follow the constant[/chref]. Working against this may be an instinctive tendency to [chref=52]see the small[/chref] and make mountains out of molehills. Thus, [chref=52]use the light (consciousness), but give up the discernment[/chref].
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