The words must have called me from the doorway they were leaning up against, to come down from my rooftop where I'd been perched for an hour like an eagle over the city, recovering from the day, and walk down the 2nd Avenue side of Union Square in a longwinded meander, rationalising it with a vague goal of exploring the music store round the corner on 14th Street to see if they had any new production gizmos I should know about, because I had no other practical reason to leave the house just then, and quite a few practical reasons not to.
But I didn't get there. Instead I saw the words, as if being handed them by an old man with a long beard in the sky above and took the photo as part of what felt like an impromptu quasi-religious ritual known only to me, the old man in the sky and the words themselves, and walked home again.
From the time you're old enough to think in words you're already constructing a story about the overwhelming plenitude of incoming stimuli we call the world in order to bring order to apparent chaos, and make sense of where you are and what you're doing and experiencing.
The templates of the story you inherit from your parents and/or whoever's looking after you, then from peers, and then teachers, and then media, and so on, but the nuances that make the world feel personal to you, you construct off your own bat.
The story-telling function is highly evolved hence sophisticated and before long you have no idea it's just a story – it's so convincing you forget it was you who made it up.
Based on this story you've made up, you evaluate your position in the world but in fact are only evaluating your position in the story you've made up.
You then react emotionally and physically to your evaluation, albeit one arrived at based entirely on subjective and spurious criteria, and based on that reaction make decisions which then affect the way the adventure goes for you.
One of the many inherent limitations this system of operating has, derives from the simple yet undeniable fact that the story has its foundations in the mind of a toddler – because that's when you started making it up – and as beautiful and wonderful as toddlers are they know next to absolutely nothing about the world, so what kind of story can it be? Usually a fairly naïve, misinformed and misguided one – unless you were a raving prodigy of course.
Hence various key aspects of you, your nature, your character, your talent-range, your imagination, your risk-taking function and so on, will be ever so subtly limited – but limited enough to limit the parameters of the adventure and thus deprive you hugely of the full benefit.
Yet the way the programming works, you nonetheless reaffirm the pattern in identifying yourself by various references in the story – name, age, height, weight, colouring, sex, sexual preferences, married/single status, family, relationships, earnings-range, friendships, address/s, house/s, car/vehicle/s, profession, place of work, dreams, aspirations, fears, and so on.
And that's who you are – a complex of references all based in fictive reality.
But it isn't.
These are illusory references.
Who you are is far greater and magnificent.
Honouring this initially makes you feel a bit skwiffy, but once you detach from the need to define every phenomenon and are instead willing for things not to make sense, acknowledging and accepting your identity is merely an illusion, a very clever illusion that had even you fooled, gives you instant satori - you are enlightened, you are liberated and in that moment what sits at the heart of the experience is the Tao.
And if you were to smile at someone at that moment, it would be the Tao smiling through your eyes.
There are no things – every phenomenon is a process – every phenomenon is in motion - hence to identify something or someone is pretending they are not in motion, not transient – that they are a thing, an object. And that is an illusion.
Likewise, and most crucially to identify yourself is to infer you too are an object and not transient. And that is an illusion.
The Taoists say, invest in loss, for by plunging into the realm of risk with that spirit you elicit the opposite in response. Invest in losing your identity like a storm does out at sea, and you gain the freedom of unbridled existence.
Repeat it to yourself numerous times and observe the deconstructive effect on your habitual self-limiting mental prejudices and preferences.
And blessed be whoever authored the phrase.
Thankyou for playing along – may you derive benefit – not just from that but from absolutely everything – for nothing there is that can come your way isn't an expression of the Tao's absolute love for you