Do the Math
Response to the Unmasked
By: Cheng Tong - May 04, 2020
I worked for two years with an old friend, Lenny, about 20 years ago. During our time together we’d solved the mysteries of the universe. For us, the answer to every question was “It’s math . . . it’s all math.” The question didn’t matter; the answer was always “math.”
We are all taught in school that one plus one is two. This is not correct. One plus one is one. It’s math. There are many people today having difficulty with their math. I see them all the time when I go to the local market for fresh vegetables and fruit.
I have written about Zhuangzi in past essays. His writings, dating back to the 4th century BC, are studied by every serious Daoist practitioner. The line I return to most often from his writings is this:
“The universe and I came into being together; and I and everything therein are one.”
He didn’t have any trouble with his math.
We are all connected to each other, and to everything, everywhere. What we do for one, we do for all, including ourselves; and, what we do against one, we do against all, including ourselves.
Like the pebble tossed into a still pond, our actions ripple out across the universe, interacting with other ripples, and so on, until they wash ashore somewhere we cannot know. A simple act of kindness, a smile, can be passed on from one to another well beyond our ken, every bit as much as we can be moved by an act of kindness toward us. We are connected; we are one.
Nothing could better illustrate this than the coronavirus. One infects another, who infects another, and before you know it, over 1.1 million cases, and 66,000 deaths, result in the US alone.
We wear masks and gloves to protect ourselves from it, AND to protect all others. We socially distance, and we stay at home, to protect ourselves, AND to protect all others. We are all connected; we are one.
Yet, some among us refuse to protect themselves and all others. They claim the right to go maskless and to congregate. We are put in harm’s way by them, and our lives are at risk from them. Some even carry guns, an implied threat to kill us if we don’t agree, seemingly unaware they already put our lives at risk by their maskless congregations.
I consider going maskless and refusing to remain socially distant to be acts of aggression, a violence committed against us all.
I shall remain secluded and continue my daily practices to cultivate stillness. I will do so with the intention to extend that stillness beyond the boundaries of my body and my home, hoping it will reach those who need it most today. This is how I will confront that aggression.
I have no illusions about how that sounds, and I am no Pollyanna. I do know, however, that stillness steels us against the travails of life. Storms may rage about us, the winds howling. Our circumstances may change, as they certainly have in just three months, but we do not, remaining solidly in the moment and responding to those changes as needed. This is the power of stillness.
We are all connected; we are one. One plus one is one. There is even a word for this. That word is love. As difficult as it may be sometimes, it is nonetheless the answer.
It’s math . . . it’s all math, just as Lenny and I figured so long ago.