Lenten Observance: Day 35

Tao 69 & 70

69: Here we have a military metaphor — the generals know that it is best to understand your enemy, and to wait and see, rather than to rush in.  But the line that really jumped out at me following an injunction not to underestimate your enemy, “Underestimating your enemy means thinking he is evil.”  And this seems a large part of fighting in a war — the enemy is demonized and dehumanized (as a means of placating the conscience, I guess), but such actions then tends to justify all sorts of atrocities against the enemy — after all, if the enemy is some inhuman monster, any action taken against him/her is justifiable.  Yipes!  Of course, I wonder if you can continue to view the other as the “enemy” if you begin to understand that person, which would mean more waiting and seeing and less rushing in.

70: We’re almost in “koan” land here:  “My teachings are easy to understand and easy to put into practice.  Yet your intellect will never grasp them, and if you try to practice them, you’ll fail.”  Sounds very Holmesian — of course it’s elementary, Watson, but your puny intelligence can’t get at it.  There has to be more than that here.  I’m guessing that part of the point is that when we try to “understand” something, to apply the intellect to a problem, we are limited in our grasp, as our way of understanding involves more than our reasoning mind.   In the case of human interaction, we can fall in love, but we cannot analyze our way into love.  We have to feel it.  So the problem here is not that it is impossible to get this, but it is impossible (or almost so) for the intellect to get at it.

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