Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Books, Books, Books - and Book XIII

Books Books Books.  I am in the process of upgrading the library temple suite - Indonesian lanterns; Walnut bookcases; antique desk, barrel and chest.  Going to pick me up a Thoth statue too.  Its going to look gorgeous fam.  Having removed the IKEA bookcases I had, the entire floor is just covered in heaps of books - many of them ex library books.  I pick up the Texts of Taoism and randomly open up a bit of Chuang Tzu to take to the bathroom and what am I offered?

What the world thinks the most valuable exhibition of the Tâo is to be found in books. But books are only a collection of words. Words have what is valuable in them;-- what is valuable in words is the ideas they convey. But those ideas are a sequence of something else;-- and what that something else is cannot be conveyed by words. When the world, because of the value which it attaches to words, commits them to books, that for which it so values them may not deserve to be valued;-- because that which it values is not what is really valuable. Thus it is that what we look at and can see is (only) the outward form and colour, and what we listen to and can hear is (only) names and sounds. Alas! that men of the world should think that form and colour, name and sound, should be sufficient to give them the real nature of the Tâo. The form and colour, the name and sound, are certainly not sufficient to convey its real nature; and so it is that 'the wise do not speak and those who do speak are not wise.' How should the world know that real nature?

Chuang Tzu, Book XIII, Part 10

He's right you know.  I question the value of the books lying scattered around me.  It seems to me the theory here is Tao then Ideas then Words then Books (highly similar to the KBL and cell biology/genetics) but the Tao is beyond our comprehension so we cannot name the ultimate source of ideas. Is Tao consciousness?  I don't know, that seems to be going a bit far although ideas are noetic and the implication is they originate in Tao.  We can't define consciousness either.  Dennett thinks its an illusion but I think Chuang thinks Dennett is an illusion.  Tao is the ultimate indescribable nature of reality.  Thinking of only indirectly contacting this reality through my senses I realise its some kind of science day as well and all my liberal progressive friends are in a science veneration trance on social media.  I am reminded of Parmenides ''On Nature'' where he suggests science is at best informed opinion.  Hmmm.  He continues:

Duke Hwan, seated above in his hall, was (once) reading a book, and the wheelwright Phien was making a wheel below it. Laying aside his hammer and chisel, Phien went up the steps, and said, 'I venture to ask your Grace what words you are reading?' The duke said, 'The words of the sages.' 'Are those sages alive?' Phien continued. 'They are dead,' was the reply. 'Then,' said the other, 'what you, my Ruler, are reading are only the dregs and sediments of those old men.' The duke said, 'How should you, a wheelwright, have anything to say about the book which I am reading? If you can explain yourself, very well; if you cannot, you shall, die!' The wheelwright said, 'Your servant will look at the thing from the point of view of his own art. In making a wheel, if I proceed gently, that is pleasant enough, but the workmanship is not strong; if I proceed violently, that is toilsome and the joinings do not fit. If the movements of my hand are neither (too) gentle nor (too) violent, the idea in my mind is realised. But I cannot tell (how to do this) by word of mouth; there is a knack in it. I cannot teach the knack to my son, nor can my son learn it from me. Thus it is that I am in my seventieth year, and am (still) making wheels in my old age. But these ancients, and what it was not possible for them to convey, are dead and gone:-- so then what you, my Ruler, are reading is but their dregs and sediments!'

Chuang Tzu, Book XIII, Part 11

I like this Wheelwright - books are just bits of corpses and bibliophilia is, in essence, no different to necrophilia.  I look around my blasted temple and see nothing but a catacomb, the leaves of various texts like bits of rotting flesh.  I am decorating my new library temple with their mummified remains. It certainly puts the grim back in grimoires. Thanks Chuang for peeing on my parade.


So it all comes down to ''the knack'' and the relative speed of the hand motions?  What is this knack, our wheelwright is talking about?  Well as I understand it Taoism is all about letting things take their natural course.  Knowledge at its heart is a natural understanding and must be applied.  Talent, a gift for understanding, which is at the heart of all knowledge is inherent, genetic, natural.  In venerating books and authors we're in danger of missing the wood for the trees, of losing our own knack - unless, paradoxically, that happens to be for writing.  An anti-intellectual corrective, Tao style. Although the book pile right now looks like it could easily be set ablaze, Chuang, I think I'll keep them intact, they look nice - and sediment eventually becomes stone.

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