The Source and the Ten Thousand Things

The constant being enables one to see the outward manifestations.
These two come paired from the same origin.
But when the essence is manifested,
It has a different name.

Excerpt from the Tao Te Ching, Chapter 1

A fundamental principle shared by Taoism and Stoicism is that all beings, all matter, everything that exists, are connected. I am connected to all other humans, all other animals, all other objects that I can observe. Marcus Auralius thought of this as a “community” of existence, all things sharing together in one and the same “soup”. To take it a step further, it isn’t even quite right to say that we are separate things at all. We share a common Source, and if we are able to peel back our layers of perception that guide us to see “things” and “people” and “animals” as distinct, we will come to realize that all of existence is really One, undivided except in perception, sharing all qualities, a universal energy flowing in cycles.

This is not to say that the things we encounter and must deal with in our physical reality do not exist, or are not really there. Things exist, people exist, animals exist, various forms of energy and frequencies exist. More distinct parts of our existence are discovered every day, from the quantum level to new species, to new planets, to new forms of matter.

The duality of nature is not a mistake, not a fallacy of the system. It all depends on where perception is focused. Am I having a profound moment, at one with my desires and the world around me, feeling the common flow of energy, or am I feeling isolated, confronted with things I have not yet encountered that I must learn to deal with?

Taoism describes us, and the objects around us, as manifestations of the universal energy expressing itself. Yin and Yang flow back and forth in cycles, creating new combinations of matter and energy that take on new forms and begin to follow their own unique nature. The variety of manifestations is described often as “the Ten Thousand things”, a placeholder for some very large number which might translate better as the “infinite arrangement”.

There are two lines of thought that I would like to follow while talking about the Ten Thousand Things. First, each individual manifestation is unique, and each has its own nature. Each individual manifestation of our reality could be thought of as the Source searching for new ways to explore its own existence. I think that the work we are doing here in our lives has everything to do with discovering our own unique nature, and how it fits into the larger pattern. No two paths will be alike, no two expressions of reality will have the exact same qualities. We already know that snowflakes do not repeat, and if we believe that, how hard can it be to believe that every other object is likewise unrepeatable in the history of existence?

Figuring out who we are, what makes each of us tick, is a wonderful challenge, but it can be difficult to look inside without a frame of reference. Luckily, there are at least nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety nine other things sharing existence with us that we can use for comparison.

Taking pictures and travel have both been invaluable to me in allowing me to expand my horizons. Seeing through a camera lens helps me to look at the world differently, and being in the state of observation allows me to see things that I wouldn’t normally have noticed, or see common things with fresh eyes. Travelling has exposed me to some of the variety of human expression and has challenged me to continue changing my ideas about what it means to be a person.

We cannot find ourselves in a vacuum, because without the dark there can be no light, without the cold there can be no heat and without another person how can I truly know where I begin and where I end? How can I know if I value the same thing unless my values are tested? How can I understand what fires my imagination unless I am constantly exposing myself to things I have not yet seen or heard?

If that is the case for me, it must also be the case for the whole of reality. We are all one, the same energy cycling in new formations, but if that energy weren’t manifesting, if it weren’t exploring its own nature, it could never learn what it is.

Our existence as one of the Ten Thousand Things might be thought of a reality’s project of coming to understand itself. Just as our path is to figure out who we are, that echoes the universal project.

The second line of thought about the nature of the Ten Thousand Things that I must not pass over, is this: our value as individuals is inherent to us as a manifestation of the Source. Our existence is our value and our contribution to the project. We can never be separate from reality, and we can never fail in our mission to help explore our collective nature.

There will be many times when I am frustrated, challenged, and exhausted in this life. There have been many times that I did not feel like I was moving in the right direction, or fast enough, or contributing enough, or earning my place in society. Learning who we are is a process, and like all things it will go through cycles. It is the work of our entire lives and will never be completed.

Within that search for ourselves we must remember, that we are already there. Our presence in this world is unique, and vibrant, and necessary! What we bring to the world no one else can express. Being who we are is enough, and more than that, is the best gift that we can give.

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