He who is aware of the Male
He who is conscious of the white (bright)
He who is familiar with honor and glory
Break up this uncarved wood
Lin Yu Tang
Being the stream of the universe,
When the block is carved, it becomes useful.
Jane English and Gia-fu Feng
Is it all really so arcane and abstruse and solemnly profound and weighty as these translations make it sound? Is the wisdom of the sage really all that difficult to grasp? It seems to be common sense to me.
We are considering the ravine now. In Chapter 6 it was the Valley Spirit, the divine feminine, the holistic, intuitive capability inherent in the human perceptive mechanism which is directly connected, naturally, to our life experience without benefit of the confusions of upper cortical complexity. It is the direct connection we have to being in the body, in the mind, in life and of it, sharing an experience we have in common with the universe and every living thing in it from the first single-celled life form to our own complexly evolved form.
In addition to the “ravine” we also have the experience of duality inherent in mind, the experience of pieces comprised of points which create distance, time, direction, value, diametrics like good and bad, safe and dangerous, and so individual action paths within the common experience and place we all belong to.
And then we have the balance between the two. The balance of mind and heart.
Too much mind, and we are no longer connected to life, to each other, to the earth, to the life force of the universe. We are connected to bits and pieces, and become a bit or a piece ourselves.
Too much heart and we are disengaged from the mind and deny half of our human reality. Not a bad thing in the sense that such a connection effectively removes us from the troubles of our mind experience. Yet not necessarily a good thing either because, unbalanced, it still involves invoking duality, choosing one aspect over the other, and so denies its true essence – an experience which involves both the heart and the mind.
The sage tells us a simple thing in chapter 28. The mind can become unruly when it forgets the heart. It will mow down entire forests in pursuit of its own ends unless it is in balance with the heart. In balance with the wisdom of the heart it will be governed rightly. It will form a useful wooden bowl instead. The sage cuts up little, acting with graceful balance of heart and mind. The sage has a separate life, simultaneously connected to all life. A paradox? An arcane, diffuse, elusive thing? No. Actually, it’s just a simple fact. It’s just, as the sage said at the end of the previous chapter,
The subtle, secret center of the Tao.
Or, as JJ Cale said about the heart’s groove and the mind’s motor,
Some like this and some like that
And some don’t know where it’s at
If you don’t get loose, if you don’t groove
Well, your motor won’t make it and your motor won’t move…