November 04th, 2017
I first read the Dao de Jing in graduate school and it has fascinated me and influenced my thinking ever since. The Dao is the way the universe works—for instance in constantly changing and in cycles. It is also the origin, or the source from which everything arises (and into which everything returns). For me, fog is also relentlessly fascinating and I think, if not consciously, this is because it is (for me) like the Dao. As in the image above, everything which is discernible through our senses, everything we experience as something we can use language to describe arises out of what is somehow indistinct. Looked at in one way, starting from the bottom of the image, what we see in the image (waves, shore) gradually fades (slips away) into the indistinctness at the top. Or looked at the other way, beginning in the fog, things gradually emerge. There's a sort of pulsation here—from what can not be discerned (and so can not be put into words—the fog) to what is discernible (individual waves, shapes, forms, clearly different from the shoreline with its curves, forms). These are not so much metaphysical claims as descriptions of our experience. This reminds me of what someone once said to me about the first book of Genesis: it describes what it's like to watch the dawn: at first all is dark, formless, then there is a glimmer of and then growing light, then forms, shapes, plants, animals, etc. begin to be discernible. I find that description relevant to my understanding of the Dao—and of the experience from which the image was made. Actually, some in the West have found similarities between these Daoist teachings and what some Western religious and philosophical teachers have said about God. Neither the Dao nor God can finally successfully be put into language—they can only be experienced.
I find that the image shown provides some understanding of these lines from the Dao de Jing:
The (Dao) that can be told of is not the eternal (Dao);
The name can be named is not the eternal name..
The Nameless is the origin (source) of Heaven and Earth.
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