So, here I am. Still reading Lao Tse. He says we need to empty ourselves of everything to know anything. If we are empty, then what can we know anything? In our world being certain means having all the data, being filled up on facts and figures. How is that working, though? Who decides what facts fit where, or even if they are facts at all? Don’t we say a person who knows only his own opinion often said to be “full of it?”
When we cease to be attached to our own knowledge with its shouting, declaiming, and certainties we start learning to listen, quietly, to the Tao. A sage is quiet; a fool is known by his many words, we are told. Quietness – inner stillness, not just holding one’s tongue while the voices within prattle on – is the key. Zhuang Tse* would later say, “the brook speaks my thoughts,” because the brook’s quietness was reflected in the stillness of the sage’s own mind. A true sage can learn more from the voice of a quiet brook than another person may from the thousands of words which assail us every day. We hear that we have ever more information and ever less wisdom. These may be words worth hearing. Do we know constancy, or certainty?
Lao Tse goes on to say that if we don’t know (experience) constancy it leads to disaster, but knowing it means our minds are open and we are open-hearted. This is a good test, isn’t it? So many today claim to be open-minded, but have a heart closed tighter than a bank vault. Haven’t you seen this? An open-hearted person, the Sage tells us, acts with the wisdom of an emperor and reaches his divinity. He – or she – is then one with the Tao, and though the body dies, “the Tao will never pass away.”
Tao Te Ching, transl. Gia-Fu Feng & Jane English
This man’s name is often spelled, “Zhuangzi.” I tend toward the older version which sets the Tse (pron., “tsuh”) apart, as it is the title of a recognised “sage.”