useful emptiness

Heaven and earth aren’t humane.
To them the ten thousand things
are straw dogs.

Wise souls aren’t humane.
To them the hundred families
are straw dogs.

Heaven and earth
act as bellows:

Empty yet structured,
it moves, inexhaustibly giving.

Lao Tzu
Ursula K Le Guin’s version

Humane, here, has nothing to do with morality. To say that the wise soul, that heaven and earth are inhumane is to say, simply, that they’re not human. They so completely lack humanity that it’s senseless to ascribe morality or human meaning to them.

They are.

And to them, we are very little. We crawl along their surfaces, but they take no notice or reckoning of us.

It’s not even to say that they’re indifferent, because only humans can be indifferent to humans. I suppose you could say we’re indifferent to the lives of ants, but that’s not really what this is getting at.

It’s that all of humanity, all of our history, is just a blink of time in the immensity of all that is. The immensity of the Tao.

This brings me back to a scientific view of the universe and life. Humans matter, but only with regard to humanity.

Even climate change. We rip apart the earth, but the earth will be here long after we make it uninhabitable for our species. Humanity will ruin the earth for humans, but the earth will remain. And it will continue as if we never existed.

Even so, we gain so much from all that is. All that surrounds us. It gives us life. It even gives us our notions of meaning and morality, for what would we be without the sun and the stars, the moon and the mountains?

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