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Knowledge for its own sake is essentially worthless - what value does it have? It is not enough to simply have information.
Consider: 'general knowledge' constitutes a superficial recollection of a wide variety of facts and figures. To what purpose?
The practice of tai chi and Taoism requires you to transcend the limitations of information.
This is an unusual and compelling process in which you shed the accretion of learned knowledge and cultural conditioning. You look deeper, and you step further into the unknown.
Knowledge promises the surety and comfort of the familiar, whereas insight is a leap into the abyss.
Insight starts with a simple criteria: you must be interested in things. Without curiosity, you have no motivation to search, to explore, to uncover things - you are not bothered enough.
This mentality cannot be faked; contrived curiosity will not endure. Following other people is lazy - the other people are doing all the work for you - and they are the ones who are learning, not you.
Awareness is everything. Tai chi should be about noticing how you use your body, how you think, how you interact. For most people, it is not about these things at all.
When you begin to see little details in the world around you and wonder at them, you become aware of a level of existence that you formerly took for granted.
It is like watching insects in your garden; they have an entire universe of interaction that humans never notice or care about. How much of your universe goes unnoticed because you are too busy rushing?
Possibilities are what make life interesting. Progress is initiated by that one question: what if? The possibility alone is sufficient to ignite your imagination and lead it off in unexpected directions.
A word, a gesture or a minor detail may be enough to spark your imagination. Be alive to possibility.
Every new innovation in society is met with trepidation; people fear the unknown. Fear and approval hamper insight.
You may have the most incredible insight into something and feel stifled by those around you. It is important not to be put off by others.
Instead of filling with questions, empty of
questions. Continue to empty. Questions confine answers. When there are no
longer questions, answers are no longer bound by them.
Figure it out
Most insights cannot be readily articulated and require the other person to share your insight. They must also have reached it on their own.
If somebody explains an insight to you, then you are listening to their insight and it does not reflect your own.
Understanding things for yourself means that you will have to walk alone and not be worried about approval or acceptance.
Intelligence cannot be measured by any known standard. The notion of IQ was invented by Francis Galton and is widely considered to be flawed. IQ was intended as a discriminatory tool.
It assumes that there are preferred ways of thinking.
Da Vinci, Aristotle and Einstein are all considered to be high-scoring on the IQ scale, yet their genius stemmed from a rejection of conventional thinking.
If intelligence can be measured, how would you test the IQ of somebody that cannot read and write? How do you test an animal's IQ?
It would be quite an assumption to judge an animal's intelligence by human standards. Who is smarter: the doctor or the carpenter? It depends whether or not you require a chair.
Intense focus on a given subject can run the risk of isolation and unusual behaviour.
This may be a deliberate choice; other considerations are simply regarded as secondary, or it may be involuntary; with obsessive/compulsive tendencies becoming manifest.
Be careful to stay in the 'here and now'. When you unravel a Zen koan or have a major burst of inspiration, it can be overwhelming. The desire to express your insight may also be important to you.
Remember that other people are unlikely to share your insight and you may just seem excitable.
If you immerse yourself in a subject and move past the mundane facts and figures, you may well find amazing insights occurring. Sustained research and study can lead to periods of immense creativity.
The inner nature of things may suddenly become clear and you find yourself marvelling at the simplicity of it. When the complexities have been shed, you see the root.
The ability to see the underlying principles is at the heart of insight. It may stem from a sudden inspired choice or determination. In tai chi, a person needs to practice, research and explore.
Beneath the 13 movements, neigong, jing and The Tai Chi Classics are to be found the insights of Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu.
Their fundamental insights concerning the Way of nature represent the foundation for your study.
To read them is not enough; the insights of other people are not your own - you must discover them for yourself.
You cannot look elsewhere for insight - it must come from within. You must become the wellspring of your own creativity; and draw inspiration from everyday life around you.
A growing awareness of your own body and mind is a good place to start.
not to understand thinking and doing, as the form of spoken and written
language suggests we should, as a one-thing-at-a-time string of awarenesses
but as a multi-dimensional experience that is not writing about apples but
walking in an orchard and eating them.
Anyone who thoughtfully uses language should realise that words are not a replication of experience but a representation.
18 March 1997
Last updated 16 June 2023