Tao and the Sensory Modalities

D.C. Lau in the introduction to the Penguin edition of Lao Tzu remarks:

[O]ne sometimes gets the feeling that the line is blurred between the tao as an entity and the tao as an abstract principle that is followed. These two are confused because they share in common the characteristic of transcending the senses. This a confusion not unlike the one mentioned in chapter XIV:

What cannot be seen is called evanescent;
What cannot be heared is called rarefied;
What cannot be touched is called minute.
These three cannot be fathomed
And so they are confused and looked upon as one.

And so I am brought to Ursula K. Le Guin’s version of chapter 14 “Celebrating Mystery”

Look at it: nothing to see.
Call it colorless.
Listen to it: nothing to hear.
Call it soundless.
Reach for it: nothing to hold.
Call it intangible.

Triply undifferentiated,
it merges into oneness,

And recall that the sensory modalities are also featured in chapter 12 “Not Wanting”

The five colors
blind our eyes.
The five notes
deafen our ears.
The five flavors
dull our taste.

In D.C. Lau’s version

The five colours make man’s eyes blind;
The five notes make his ears deaf;
The five tastes injure his palate;

In this discursive universe, the naming (calling) runs a kind of interference for an apparatus that is already defective or limited.

Le Guin’s version leads me to construct a table of imperatives that bring back the sensing to naming and the naming to sensing.

look listen reach
call call call

And so for day 2809

This entry was posted in Perception. Bookmark the permalink.