מגזין "מקו ועד תרבות"

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מגזין מקו ועד תרבות To refresh our thinking

To refresh our thinking

By Tami Klein

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If the goat knew it was a goat its feet would become entangled. If the fish knew it was a fish it would sink to the bottom of the river like a lump of lead. The goat, the fish, the mountain and the river know themselves by knowing that they do not know. Only humans tries to “know” in knowing. Therefore, a human does not succeed in being a human in the same way that the goat is a goat, the fish is a fish, the mountain is a mountain, and the river – a river.”

I reread the book Voices of the Earth: Selected Excerpts from the Letters of the Chinese Sage Chuang-Tze (also spelled Chuang-tzu or Zhuang Zhou), an anthology presenting words of wisdom that Westerners, like myself, can only enjoy or be surprised by.

Yoel Hoffman compiled these selections by the Chinese sage Chuang-Tze, a 4th century BCE Daoist philosopher and translated them into Hebrew from Chinese. Daoism is one of the ancient streams of Chinese philosophy; in conceives of life as a path. (The Chinese word “Dao” means “path.”) In the above sentences, the Chinese sage encapsulates his worldview. The beauty in Chuang’s presentation is his perspective on thinking, which is so unexpected, and humor with which he explains it. Read two opening sentences again and you will indeed see the uniqueness in Chuang Tse’s use of language.

If the goat knew it was a goat its feet would become entangled. If the fish knew it was a fish it would sink to the bottom of the river like a lump of lead. The goat, the fish, the mountain and the river know themselves by knowing that they do not know. Only humans tries to “know” in knowing. Therefore, a human does not succeed in being a human in the same way that the goat is a goat, the fish is a fish, the mountain is a mountain, and the river – a river.”

I found myself smiling naively when I read these lines and thinking, “Wow. How is that we are not educated to think in this manner? We were educated to make categorical statements, to prove them, to argue about them and try to convince others of their truth.…”

The book has 69 chapters, that can be read one at a time, without reference to the one before or after. You can read in the book but not necessarily read the book.

I’m also used to writing about books, but I admit that I found myself being hesitant when writing about this one. Why? First of all, because fitting the sayings of the Chinese sage into my turns of phrase, might alter them, at best; or worse, distort them. Then I thought to myself that friends who have bought this book, left it by their reading chair or on the nightstand by their bed, and look at occasionally, are renewed, change their perspective, or consider thoughts they did not think could be thought. What a refreshing thought.

Yet I am not exempt from a certain obligation. Consider Chapter 5 – Words, from which I quote:

“There is nothing that is not ‘other.’ There is nothing that is not ‘himself.’ What we do not see from the perspective of the other, the one who knows himself knows. Thus it is said that ‘he’ comes from ‘it’ and the source of ‘it’ is ‘he.’ This is the teaching that ‘he’ and ‘it’ give birth to each other. Life is in death, death is in life; the possible is in the impossible, and the impossible in the possible; the positive comes from the negative, and the negative comes from the positive.

Therefore, the sage does not get caught up in distinctions, but rather illuminates everything according to the nature of things.”

And later in the chapter: “Knowledge that rests in a place that does not know is the complete knowledge. Who knows speech without words, the path without a path? Whoever knows this resides in the halls of nature. What is poured into it does not fulfill it; what is drawn away, does not empty it. Where and how – he knows not. This is the concealed light.”

מגזין מקו ועד תרבות To refresh our thinking

If you read the book and would like to share your thoughts with us at info@hafatzim.com we would be delighted to share them on the site.

Sounds of the Earth, translated from Chinese, with comments and commentaries by Yoel Hoffman Modan Publishing

In English exists the book – The way of Chuang Tzu with explanations of Thomas Merton. could be found at Amazon.

מגזין מקו ועד תרבות To refresh our thinking

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