It’s all an unbroken thread. The unbroken thread of life. What do we want? A better question, what do we need? We can say we want a better job, a bigger house, respect, love, or security. Are these enough? Unless we’re really different, we get these things and there’s still the same want. It’s just for more of it, or something else. We just can’t say what it is, can we? The better job might mean more frustration. The bigger house is a pain to keep up. Respect is hard to measure, love is elusive, and security, well, what is that, really? How do we untangle that thread? Where does it end?
What we look for is beyond form; what we listen for is beyond sound; what we would grasp cannot be held. So says Lao Tse. Like following an unbroken thread it has no beginning, and no end. How do we grasp it? How do we use it? This, he says, is the essence of the Tao. We can’t see its beginning. It has no end. Socrates said that the wisest words we can say are, “I do not know.” This is the beginning, and this is the goal, of all true wisdom. The unbroken thread of life.
So what is “wisdom?” Is it just about having the right answers? Clever words to impress people? A trained jackass can impress folks! Wisdom is knowing what is right – how to live a life that works. Not just “works” for getting what we want, but releasing our wants – whatever they are at the moment. After all, how many times have we wanted something more than anything, but had no use for it once we got it? A puppy chasing its tail gives us a better picture of our lives than we often like to admit, doesn’t it?
We are born into this world. Into this universe. Something in us, some foolishness, drives us to live as if we were not part of it. We see our circumstances as something we have to control. The puppy just has to catch that tail. Philosophers might call this “individualism.“ Psychologists, “Egotism.” The Bible calls it “sin,” and the Hindu traditions, “Samsara.” We can call it “delusion,” and remember Alan Watts’ pithy warning, “Don’t believe everything you think.”
So what is wisdom? Not a strategy for getting our own way. Not a collection of “wise sayings.” Not a plan, and not a book, though wisdom can be found in books, and we can plan wisely. Wisdom, non-attachment, or freedom from delusion, however we put it, is not something to red or write down. It is a life. It is life. It is love. The unbroken thread of life!
When we begin to love we live a life that is freely given, not fervently grasped after. Love is giving; lust is grasping – the delusion that we are here for ourselves. To love, then, is to deny ourselves – die to ourselves, and our own desires. Then we begin to live. This is the paradox – that love begets life, and death begets love. Only when we embrace our death do we begin to live.