Table of Contents


Lao Tzu: The tao that can be told is not the eternal tao;
the name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The unnameable is the eternally real.

The ring of truth. What Lao Tzu calls tao I call truth. Words can't hold truth. Truth isn't fixed, isn't a thing, isn't abstract. Truth is unnameable wisdom an evolving human discovers about the world. Truth is a quality of relating to the world. Truth can't be named because it's not the same for any two people. Truth can only be found internally as a person makes progress with love.

Nothing at all. Words are empty, arbitrary symbols that point to things, actions, relations, or nothing at all. Most words don't even point to real things. They're just words about words: generalizations, categories, abstractions, linguistic markers. None of those point to anything real. They're just mental constructions. The word human is supposed to point to something Gandhi and Vlad the Impaler have in common. Right. We make up words that are blatantly self-contradictory, but we don't care. Language mirrors human carelessness and deception. Word meanings change. Words are different in each language. Words have no real content. The simplest real thing in the world is out of the reach of words. But when a wise person like Lao Tzu has something to say, his words may have the ring of truth for someone who's ready to hear.

Chaotic and mysterious. We live in the real world, chaotic and mysterious. The real world is playful, unpredictable. We give things names, put them in categories, make up abstractions about them. We confuse the thing with its name and all those other mental projections. Mental projections work and relate neatly because that's what we're after: order, neatness. The world is not orderly or neat, and words can't make it that way. Words don't impose order on the world because a thing is not its name or category. It's a thing, out of the reach of words. Words just get in the way. They keep us from seeing and feeling the chaotic and mysterious world, beautiful and terrifying. We cling to our words, ignoring the world.

Abstractions. We start with seemingly simple words: god, heat, time. None of those is a thing you can point to. They're abstractions, words that don't point to anything except other words, crap we've made up in our heads. We make up vastly complicated systems that those words are important entities in, but all of that is imaginary. Made up by thinkers thinking in words. Those simple words are imaginary creations of the human mind with no substance.

So are the complicated systems built up around them.

Proper nouns seem to point to something real: Louisiana, Jeff Fairhall. But they don't hold truth either. A person a place an object changes every instant. We usually can't see the change happening, but we see the change once there have been enough instantaneous changes. Louisiana in 1951 was not like Louisiana in 2020. Jeff before his tumor manifested was not like Jeff after. TH when I arrived in Boulder was not like TH when I left. Even proper nouns can't hold truth.

With the angel standing for truth. When I encounter the truth, even for an instant, it's overwhelming. Everything stops. It wakes me up. In Kenya I was shocked awake when I encountered a cobra way too fucking close to me in the coffee. That was the truth staring me in the face. The truth takes my breath away, it stops my world. I can't bear more than an instant of it. Rilke writes about this in his First Duino Elegy.

A particular cobra. A cobra is real, but the word cobra points to millions of real things. The word cobra can't take my breath away, for an instant or for good; a cobra can. But only a particular cobra at a particular moment and there's no word for that. The cobra that took my breath away existed only in that particular 1966 moment. A hundred people looking at a cobra each have a different cobra each instant. Each instant of my life has its own particular truth. Making progress with love is focusing my attention on that truth and adding that truth to my wisdom.

My wisdom. Body sensations express truth. How I feel right now is true, and it can't be put into words. But if I pay attention to my body sensations, I can find truth; I can make progress with love. Paying attention is how I find my wisdom. Wisdom is my connection with everything that exists. My wisdom has the answers I need because it connects with everything in time and space. My wisdom sees through time to the outcome I want: making progress with love. Wisdom is my spiritual guide.

Untrue. Everything is NOT gonna be all right.

With all due disrespect for Bob Marley and drug culture, the pop cliché that all will be well, that we can right the world's wrongs is untrue. It's as untrue as the idea that fairness will rule. Untruths get in the way of action. Look around, study history. Life's not fair. Truth and justice do not prevail. The world is a big messy stew of contradictions and nastiness.

Ignorance. There's as much intolerance, greed, hatred, repression and injustice as there is goodness and fairness; probably more. It's been that way since the neolithic revolution, when humanity began. None of those bad things will ever go away. If I say they will, if I say we can do this, I'm just showing my ignorance. History insists that revolutions and popular uprisings simply replace one brand of bullshit with another. Always been that way. Your revolution will not be any different.

I can do this. I can't make the world a better place; no one can. But I can make my own life better. I can stop drinking, stop taking drugs, get good exercise, eat healthy natural foods, and meditate. I can love not hate, be kind not cruel, be tolerant not judgmental. I can remember that all my fellow humans are suffering. I can't save the world, I can't save anyone. No one can save anyone else. But I can make my life better, and I can connect with other people who are making their lives better. I can make progress with love.