12.1 Colors blind people's eyes;
sounds deafen their ears;
flavors spoil people's palates,
12.2 the chase and the hunt craze people's minds;
goods hard to obtain make people's actions harmful.
12.3 Therefore sages work for the middle and not the eyes,
leaving the latter and taking the former.
Tao Teh Ching - Cleary Translation
Senses used become sharper; senses misused become duller.
Listening more makes me listen better, listening to loud noises makes me more deaf.
I do not hunt, and i especially do not hunt with hounds, but i do do many things thst probably make me crazy.
Line three puzzles me and much of the commentary only confuses me further. It would help to know how the ancients thought about the different parts of the body, an area of much ignorance for me. Physical trainers today call the belly the "core." which seems to make sense to me, it is where the umbilical once made life itself possible and without which no proper mammal could survive from conception to birth. So filling the belly and emptying the mind does not mean to the mystic what one would think it meant.
Here is how some other folks have read line 3:
"The wise person fulfills his needs
rather than the sensory temptations.
--Stan Rosenthal,1988 (who titles Chapter 12 "The Repression of Desire."
Therefore the sensible man
prefers the inner to the outer eye.
He has his yes -- he has his no.
--Witter Bynner, 1941
The Master observes the world
but trusts his inner vision.
He allows things to come and go.
His heart is open as the sky.
-- Steohen Mitchell, 1992 and
Therefore the wise concentrates on the belly
and not on the temptations of the senses.
Thus he abides in the one and foregoes the other
-- Cheng Ching-yuan, 1975 In a very useful commentary he says that belly stands for reality, temptations of the senses stands for appearances, and adds that actions (seeing, hearing, tasting, doing) should not be separated from non-action. The mind/Self/soul, should be pure and free from desire. Thereby action is balanced.
There is a hole in my heart and one in my gut (and my doctors tell me this is not just a physical metaphor for a spiritual condition -- the one in the heart is not life threatening and the umbilical hernia can be fixed.) But this is also a metaphor People are inclined to fill holes with whatever material is available but not all fillings work and perhaps none that we find in this life will work permanently. But of those fillings available, the spiritual ones, i think are most likely to be effective. and they also help the other fillings to be better chosen and to work more satisfactorily,
My "core" needs attention that is more than physical exercise, it needs the discipline of prayer and the bread of life.
Higher Loving: Holes let things in and let things out. May what goes in and out of my various "holes," normal or pathological, material or spiritual be good. May they serve the furtherance of compassion, kindness, peace, and joy. Amen.