I am no one to speak of the Tao.
I develop an odd variety of “skills”. The situation can be described somewhat like this:
I value the feeling of discovering, elaborating and refining new distinctions concerning classes of experience. Essentially, I value transforming concrete experiences into abstract descriptions that can be understood in terms of other abstractions and used to “place” other concrete experiences. That’s very abstract (the process wasn’t born yesterday) so I’ll describe a particular example:
I was thinking about a snake. I was thinking about snakes emerging into awareness. They are camouflaged typically approaching from unlikely angles, and snakes have an atypical movement pattern. Snakes tend to be observed long after they could have been observed. I mean, specifically, light falling on the retina could be originating from the surface of a snake (snakeskin radiation) even while the conscious “I” is unaware of the snake. Then it will slither or rattle or the shadows will shift in a shape revealing way, or just whatever, and suddenly “there’s a snake”-awareness arises.
It’s kind of like how I imagine it must have been for good Catholics prior to Pope Pius XII‘s official letting-off-the-hook of Darwinian evolution. One day one’s local priest was vilifying evolution and the next the Pope let’s Darwin (figuratively) kiss his ring. Imagine that emerging into Christendom Darwin underwent in the minds of the believers.
Is seen what wasn’t.
I was thinking about a snake one time when I realized I was looking at an emerging seedling from some topsoil in a plant on my desk. The head of the tiny stalk looked and curled away from the stalk in just such a way that it appeared like a snake in movement. I’d been thinking about a snake for a while before I noticed what was just a tiny weedling at the base of the larger plant which was actually “the plant on my desk”. Just some sort of tiny clover. For about fifteen minutes the seedling looked just like a green snake with a somewhat over sized head. Then, as seedlings are wont to do, it grew out of the illusion from my perspective. Some subtle shift happened and it had grown before my eyes unnoticed (!yet another illustration!).
I am of the opinion that seeing the seedling (at some preconscious level) had been the fountainhead of the thoughts about snakes. I can understand if someone would wish to argue that I had been thinking about snakes for some other reason and then, because I’d primed my brain just-so, identified a “snake-like form” in my visual field. I get it, but I disagree. That argument is just stepping back a step what unlikely source led to a thread of thoughts about snakes. I don’t think about snakes often and (at this point) I don’t remember any particular stimuli that day that would have otherwise led me to (randomly) think about snakes. I realized then, and believe now, that I was thinking about snakes because I unconsciously saw a “snake-like form” in the seedling. Although it was below the threshold of reaching consciousness, some part of me had already parsed the visual field of that seedling into a form near-to a snake’s.
I was interested in the fact that the mind is layered and there are not too many opportunities to really catch evidence of that layeredness (think of the glitchy deja-vu cat in the first Matrix) of the mind. Or rather, they are really and truly all over the place and time, but really and truly, they are hard to notice. They are always in one blind spot or another. Iow, I appreciated the catch, fishing in the seas at the edges of awareness.
We can but glimpse the billowing trench coats of Nietzsche’s divine lizards skittering about the corners of our mind. Any glimpse a godsend, some say, others warn us off.
They’re not so much skills as prototissue sensitive to particular caresses.
Should we worry over the snake in the grass? What other seeds be planted in thy soil? All the seeds of the world, good and bad. So it is with each of us. Which will find expression in our little valleys?
I like to encourage a vibrant diversity of counter balancing expression.
The Tao cannot be pointed .