“Ordinary men hate solitude.
But the master makes use of it,
embracing his aloneness, realizing
he is one with the whole universe.”
~ Stephen Mitchell (trans.), Tao Te Ching: A New English Version (New York: Harper Perennial), 2006.
In 2014, a social psychologist conducted an experiment in which people had the choice of either doing nothing for a short period of around 15 minutes, or shocking themselves. The results were, well…you can fill in the blank. The experiment appeared to support Pascal’s famous aphorism, “All of mankind’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” More specifically, perhaps the problems stem from men’s inability to do so; more precisely, the masculine power’s revulsion at solitude sows chaos.
The lines above today’s selection read this way: “All things have their backs to the female and stand facing the male. When male and female combine, all things achieve harmony.”
If the male turns its back on the female, he will only see her shadow. He will, that is, only see Kali. And Kali makes you fight, flee, fawn, or freeze. Kali provokes furious action, frenetic motion, reactive energy, rash behavior—anything but sitting still.
But to turn toward Kali—to “embrace his aloneness”—the male has to fall backward into the black. The little shocks he distracts himself with to feel alive and accomplished are so much pornography filling in for the real thing; if he really wants to give birth to something, he has to turn toward Kali. He has to go, as Plotinus put it, from the alone to the Alone. He has to say yes to solitude.
New to the Dao Du Jour? Check out “Day 0.”