Heraclitus begins our reflection:
The dead and the living, those awake and those sleeping, the young and the old are one and the same in us; the one, moved from its place is the other, and the other returned to its place is the one. (-Heraclitus)
(Excerpt from: "Time and Space: A Poetic Autobiography" by Juan Ramon Jimenez, iUniverse. Scribd.)
In the dialogue Plato introduces the story by having Socrates explain to Glaucon that the soul must be immortal, and cannot be destroyed. Socrates tells Glaucon the "Myth of Er" to explain that the choices we make and the character we develop will have consequences after death. Earlier in Book II of the Republic, Socrates points out that even the gods can be tricked by a clever charlatan who appears just while unjust in his psyche, in that they would welcome the pious but false "man of the people" and would reject and punish the truly just but falsely accused man. In the Myth of Er the true characters of the falsely-pious and those who are immodest in some way are revealed when they are asked to choose another life and pick the lives of tyrants. Those who lived happy but middling lives in their previous life are most likely to choose the same for their future life, not necessarily because they are wise, but out of habit. Those who were treated with infinite injustice, despairing of the possibility of a good human life, choose the souls of animals for their future incarnation. The philosophic life — which identifies the types of lives that emerge from experience, character, and fate — allow men to make good choices when presented with options for a new life. Whereas success, fame, and power may provide temporary heavenly rewards or hellish punishments, philosophic virtues always work to one's advantage.
Sunyata, or Empty of Inherent, Enduring, Independent Self-Nature
One of the keys to getting to be able to see and experience reality this way is to recognize that things are empty. The term for this is Sunyata; emptiness. I’ve also heard the translation boundlessness, which is kind of cool because it basically means all of these individual things that we usually think or who we usually think have inherent, essential, independent, enduring self nature. There’s something inherently, independently real about them, and that that’s not actually the case, that all individual beings arise interdependently with everything else. That’s where we focus on emptiness. If you see the emptiness of things, then you see their true nature.
Emptiness can sound a little negative, right? It’s about what things don’t have, but there’s another way of describing reality, describing the absolute aspect of reality, which is more positive and has been around since a few hundred years after the Buddha or maybe even earlier. That term is Tatātā or Tathātā. This is translated as suchness or thusness because emptiness doesn’t mean a nihilistic void. Once we let go of our mental map of reality, of our attachment to an idea that something or someone has an inherent, enduring self nature, reality doesn’t just disappear. It doesn’t become a nihilistic void, it just is what it is without our mental map of it. Everything is such.
(-from suchness-things-as-it-is, zenstudiespodcast )
Sometimes, I don't know what to think.
Then it occurs to me -- that "not knowing what" -- is to begin to think.
When we know, we are not thinking. When we don't know, we begin to think.
Like the Korean zen monk who stayed with us a few years ago on his ten thousand mile bicycle ride criss-crossing through the US, Canada, and Latin America, to begin (always just the beginning) to think is to recite the kong-an/mantra with every turn of the wheel on the road, "What Is This?" "What Is This?" as he did the whole way.
We think that thinking is undesirable. It is a belief of ideologues and fundamentalist dogmatists, as well as incuriously-minded followers of autocrats everywhere.
But to begin to think is to engage the practice of seeing through what is there to be seen through.