Emulating the root [by way] of bringing to rest the stem and branches

by Chimezie Ogbuji

Wang Bi (226 – 249 AD) attempted to provide a one sentence summary of the 81 chapters of the Laozi ( The Classic/Canon of the Way/Path and the Power/Virtue ), written in the 6th century BC:

Emulating the root [by way] of bringing to rest the stem and branches

This is a bold thing to attempt for any piece of literature, much less one of the most translated of all. However, I think it is a very thoughtful analogy. He elaborates on this sentence in his commentary on the following line from chapter 16.416.5 of the Laozi. The original text and his commentary (immediately following) are below:

Generally speaking, while [all things] are of unending diversity, each one of them returns to its [common] root. [Their] reverting to [their] roots means stillness.

The ‘root’ is the beginning. [That is], each one of them relates back to that which began it. Once they revert to [their] roots, then they [reach] stillness.

This reading brings to mind this picture I took from the roots of a big tree, looking up at its branches.

It also brings to mind the general thrust of modern quantum physics and the ongoing search [ Large Hadron Collider purpose (Wikipedia) ]:

concerning the basic laws governing the interactions and forces among the elementary objects, the deep structure of space and time, and in particular the intersection of quantum mechanics and general relativity

ALICE magnet with the doors open

Many of the experiments being run in the Large Hadron Collider seek to answer these questions by investigating (and attempting to replicate) conditions as they existed shortly after the Big Bang (the mother of all roots). Two and a half millennia later, we still seek to emulating the root.