Sunday, 1 July 2018

The Ten Thousand Things

Anyone who knows me realises that I have little time for 'religion' or its partner word 'spirituality', simply because I don't understand them.  Until someone gives me a clear definition of 'spirit' without bringing 'soul' (an entirely different entity, seems to me) into it.

Still I love the philosophical little text called the Tao Te Ching (for its brevity, if nothing else). 

Here's part of Chapter 42:

From Tao comes the One.
From the One comes the Two.
From the Two comes the Three.
From the Three come the ten thousand things.

I won't go into what I understand from this enigmatic (and profound) little poem, but I like a description of the actual world we live in as 'the ten thousand things'.    When I emerged from the buzzing, blooming confusion of childhood I remember feeling delighted at those ten thousand things - from butterflies to books, from other countries and other languages to art and science by-products, from simple to exotic foodstuffs, and on, and on.

In fact, in the modern idea, we know of millions and millions of things, but a symbolic 'ten thousand' seems a manageable amount for any one human to deal with.  After all, I will never meet all the people, read all the books, visit all the countries, watch all the movies, etc.

The 'ten thousand things', to some extent, represent the illusory part of life, called Maya or Lila, the things that we eventually have to let go of, when we finally leave.  At my age I have already started simplifying my expectations - I may never get to visit China, or South America, or Africa.  Whole clusters of possible experiences now eliminated.  I sometimes feel I am shedding layers, in preparation, like Ishtar entering the Underworld.

So perhaps it should come as no surprise that for many people, these days, their apparent wide range of experience (their own ten thousand things) may well consist, almost entirely, of pixillated experiences, rather than direct, sensory ones.   We think we have seen youths skateboarding over street furniture, dolphins rounding up fish, football matches, Royal weddings, disasters, heroic behaviour, etc - but all this through just one channel - a screen.

Less to give up, I guess, when we finally leave!   We just turn off the screen, or run out of battery life, and we're gone.

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