Interior and Exterior | Tao Te Ching #1

Written by on June 5, 2021

Chapter 11

“The thirty spokes unite in the one nave; but it is on the empty

space (for the axle), that the use of the wheel depends. Clay

is fashioned into vessels; but it is on their empty hollowness,

that their use depends. The door and windows are cut out

(from the walls) to form an apartment; but it is on the empty

space (within), that its use depends. Therefore, what has a

(positive) existence serves for profitable adaptation, and what

has not that for (actual) usefulness.”

– Tao Te Ching


What this chapter is saying is that there are 2 sides to everything. It’s gross or physical side as well as it’s empty space or subtle and immaterial side. The positive is the gross and serves for profitable adaptation, but it’s the empty space or subtle and immaterial part which sometimes matters more. Think of this as being like how a computer only understands 1s and 0s.

Yes, we do have physical side to our Being, but we don’t define ourselves by our physical traits, at least not for the most part. When you are asked who you are or asked to talk about yourself, I doubt that you would begin by describing your physical attributes such as your height, weight, density, etc. No, you would begin describing your interior, the cultural roles that you identify with. Maybe you share your beliefs, values, goals, desires, career, here you are describing your soul or immaterial aspects to the person.

If you tell them that you are a parent, are you more proud of the physical accomplishment of conceiving your child, or are you more proud of the role that you played in bringing up that child?

These abstractions are not reducible to atoms and are therefor the empty spaces of your Being. Your body is the clay vessel, your soul is the empty space within.