Apologies for the quiet lately — I’m moving into a period of contemplating my losses, with 9/11 and the five year anniversary of my mom’s death this month. It’s an emotional time of year for me and there’s just a lot going on internally. I should be back to my normal daily chatter soon enough.
(Following is a repost from February, 2005)
The more you dwell in the spirit,
The farther you are from common ways.
If you want to speak of Tao’s wonders,
Few will listen.
If you spend a long period of time in study and self-cultivation, you will enter Tao. By doing so, you also enter a world of extraordinary perceptions. You experience unimaginable things, receive thoughts and learning as if from nowhere, perceive things that could be classified as precedent. Yet if you try to communicate what you experience, there is no one to understand you, no one who will believe you. The more you walk this road, the farther you are from the ordinary ways of society. You may see the truth, but you will find that people would rather listen to politicians, performers, and charlatans.
If you are known as a follower of Tao, people may seek you out, but are seldom the ones who will truly understand Tao. To speak of the wonders you have seen is often to engage in a futile bout of miscommunication. That is why it is said that those who know do not speak.
Why not simply stay quiet? Enjoy Tao as you will. Let others think you are dumb. Inside yourself, you will know the joy of Tao’s mysteries. If you meet someone who can profit by your experience, you should share. But if you are merely a wanderer in a crowd of strangers, it is wisdom to be silent.
Nature says few words.
A whirlwind does not last all morning,
nor does a rainstorm last a whole day.
What causes them? Nature.
If even Nature’s utterances do not last long,
how much less should human beings’?
Tao Te Ching, 23
Those who know do not speak.
Those who speak do not know.
Close the mouth; shut the doors.
Smooth the sharpness; untie the tangles.
Dim the glare; calm the turmoil.
This is mystical unity.
Those achieving it are detached from friends and enemies,
from benefit and harm, from honor and disgrace.
Therefore they are the most valuable people in the world.
Tao Te Ching, 56
When I was a teenager, before I ever even heard of Tao, I remember coming across the quote “If you do not understand my silence, you will not understand my words”. It struck a chord in me since I was sometimes criticized for being quiet, or people said it was hard to get to know me, or that I was “reserved”. It’s more that I might not take part in light conversation or gossip. I tend to know people very deeply, sometimes too deeply for their own comfort. But I sometimes avoid what is considered as polite conversation. I would rather know what someone truly thinks about things than discuss the weather, or a sports team, or your dental visits, or who is doing what to whom these days.
And people can be shallow. They may not think about anything very deeply. I observe them, and find their heart, and learn who they are. How they joke tells me their prejudices, how they talk about others tells me if they are a gossip or someone who truly cares for others. Even a casual mention of the weather tells me if they know and follow the changes or just react to them. “When is this rain going to stop?” can bring a response from me of “well, they say it will rain through tomorrow, and then be nice until next Monday”.
I am all about studying process and change. How things work and how they change over time. That is why the Tao appeals to me. And there are many things that speak to us in silence.