Lenten Observance: Day 24

Tao 47 & 48

47: “The more you know the less you understand” — the difference between knowledge and wisdom.  Knowledge, especially as we know it in the West, is the accumulation of data, and the cateogrization of things.  Even when you are not a science, you see this — in language (parts of speech, rules of punctuation, and so forth), in literature (genres, the forms narrative can take, and so on), in art (schools of art), and all that, though helpful in seeing similarities and differences, also puts up blinders.  I recently heard something about Oliver Wendell Holmes and 7 other justices on the Taft court, in a case called Buck v. Bell endorse mandatory, even involuntary, sterilization of women with low IQs — there was a strong Darwinistic and social Darwinistic sentiment in academe, which arguments were used by countries such as Nazi Germany (or the United States) engaging in sterilization to get rid of undesirable strains in the genetic stock — knowledge they had, but that knowledge led them down a path we don’t look kindly on now — for such a policy could lead to genocide, but those scientists engaged in those programs, saw eugenics as the hope of a better tomorrow — even Margaret Sanger felt that way. 

48: “True mastery can be gained by letting things go their own way.  It can’t be gained by interfering.”  Again the idea of wu wei — non-doing or non-action.  This is something that, as a teacher, I struggle with (and not always successfully) — my inclinations, as the “expert,” is to help shepherd my students to knowledge and understanding, but they are not sheep and I am not infallible in my knowledge.  When I do best, I create an environment where students come to their own understanding, where they listen to what “experts” say, but where they make up their own mind with some confidence.

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