Knowing Without Going
Today we talk about how to see without looking, and a record breaking conservation effort in Ethiopia.
Listen to the Episode
Today's reading is from chapter 47 of Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching from the translation of Gia fu Feng and Jane English:
Without going outside, you may know the whole world. Without looking through the window, you may see the ways of heaven. The farther you go, the less you know. Thus the wise know without traveling; see without looking; work without doing.
What does it mean that, without going outside, we can know the whole world? The answer is the same reason that Lao Tzu's advice is still relevant today. Meditation is the way we can understand how the world works. That the longer we remain still, the more we pay attention to the world around us, the more we'll understand reality. Because the reality we find at home on a cushion is not a different reality from the one we find on a mountaintop. It has the same rules the same, as a Buddhist might say, marks of existence.
Just as breath comes in and out, things in life come and go. As we meditate, we notice phenomena and sensations that emerge and then disappear. And so, just by sitting and watching, we can understand that two of these marks of existence, then, are that reality is always changing, and that phenomena are not permanent.
What Lao Tzu is saying is that we don't need to go traveling around or looking in books to understand the world and ourselves better. Books can be enjoyable and useful. Travel can be enjoyable and useful. But neither are more useful than developing the skill to be present and attentive to the reality you're in right now.
Paying attention is always an option. It's something that's always accessible to us. And the more comfortable we are with doing it, the better we get at practicing it, the better life will be. Because the more we understand ourselves and the world around us, the easier it is to work with the grain of life, and just enjoy.
This Monday, Ethiopia set a new world record by planting three hundred and fifty million trees across their country, exceeding their goal of two hundred and fifty million, as part of a larger initiative to plant four billion trees by this October. In the 19th century, about 30% of the country was covered in forest; now that number is less than four. To me, this is a testament to the power of organized action for good. This great news is compounded by the fact that earlier this month a study published in Science magazine has found that the restoration of forests is one of the most effective strategies for combating climate change.
Quote of the Day
Today's quote of the day is from someone else who was good at looking at the world and noticing things, Albert Einstein:
"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better."