The Tao That Can Be Named

I mentioned a nascent computational model of empathy the other day. Empathy starts off as recognizing a similarity in reasoning with someone different from yourself. When applied liberally, it means recognizing that the billions of starving people in the world are also people like yourself in a very personal and troubling way.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Jesus and Gandhi as of late. People who were unreasonably idealistic, but who stood by their ideals and changed the world. I don’t know whether or not I can accomplish something on the order of what they did, but I can try. In the end it isn’t the actual doing that matters to me, since the world is chaotic and beyond my control, but it does matter to me whether or not I can honestly say to myself that I tried.

Back in high school, there was a girl who had a thing for me. Even though I was lonely and womanless, I wouldn’t give her the time of day because I was a Christian and she was a slut. Now, at the ripe old age of 30, I can see that actually she was the victim of lots of nasty rumors and I had my head crammed up my ass.

I remember how certain of the time I was of how I saw the world. That one recognition — that I have been mistaken about things that I was certain of — has been driving my thinking more than anything as of late.

I ran across an interpretation of the Tao Te Ching which starts with:

Tao doesn’t have a name.
Names are for ordinary things.

Stop wanting stuff. It keeps you from seeing what’s real.
When you want stuff, all you see are things.

Which I interpret as “You don’t know what the fuck is going on. If you can just manage to not forget that and confuse your perceptions for reality, you’ll be fine.”

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