Only Lao Tzu is smiling in the picture. The other 2 men are meant to be Buddha, and Confucius. Buddha believed the world was Samsara, an illusion in which the wheel of suffering needed to be escaped. Confucius believed the world was meant to be overcome with discipline, ergo; "sour". Why then is Lao Tzu smiling? Vinegar was not only a representation of life, but also of; decay, and forward thinking. Vinegar is and was made through a process of fermentation much as wine can become a vinegar under the right conditions. In tasting what is arguably not simply vinegar as, "life" one may recognize that this thinking was upon the direction the process of life may go. Tasting the product of a belief or a process is almost a theme of most Eastern philosophical writing. Much as many today might stand in awe of certain technological wonders, and either like or dislike the end result.
Hidden Meanings And Realizations
As observers we are all capable of aligning ourselves with thinking that seems to keep the identity illusion or ego, in a state of perpetuity. We dislike what we wouldn't do, and also dislike those who do as we would not. Personality and individuation are by in large classified by components that show why men and women of different personality types see and hear different messages and operate from differing perspectives - if through a glass darkly.
Rationale And The Great Confusion
The ego of course is a false thing. An invention of man to self identify. This is evident by the changes in preferences and aversions as life progresses. Even in one day we can feel sympathy, loathing, love, anger, and frustration, as well as 10,000 variations within the context of one meeting with one individual. On another day the same type of meeting can produce literally none or some of the same reactions with new biases, and perhaps surprisingly no different outcome that endures. Man's purpose is invented through reasoning, and justification... or is it?
The Continuum That Isn't
Conceptually all that exists, does so apart from all that does not. The table you have is different from the table you never had. There is in a sense a void operating in the presence of existing phenomena that acts as a condition for the existence of what is present. The light is on, so there is a void where the dark is now waiting to manifest. The light is off, therefor the emergence of light is in a conditional state of void. Things are as they have always been, and the myriad forms arise, endure for a time, and recede into non-being. (That's where your socks went.) Much as flowers haven't changed much since our eldest ancestors observed them, the conditional phenomena are all simply moving along in these void vs conditionally existing states. This is the continuum that is, and also since time is an illusion of sorts, one meant mostly for observing objects in motion it is also self defeating. This is partly why in the Heart Sutra the proclamation becomes, "Emptiness no other than form, form no other than emptiness." The human condition perpetuates illusions on a scale that exceeds personality and ventures into reality itself, and since that is a moving phenomena - the continuum is essentially not consistent wherever an observer is not present. Remember observation collapses the wave function...
People Disagree About Whatever They Are Tricked Into Not Liking
If I ask you in front of compassionate people if you care about the homeless - you will answer predictably. If you are asked that question repeatedly by enough people you dislike, you might surprise yourself. You can believe anything given the right stimuli. You might even believe in facts presented to you within an artificial construct of the mind that doesn't even exist. If you were handed proof of anything, try to remember that reality might itself be a simulation and that somewhere there could be 25 strung together gpu and vpu pulling extra resources to convince you there is a bird by your window. If the simulation ends, there is no bird. Likewise when one understands conditional reality - there is no independent bird. It all relies on a network of existing conditional phenomena and so it really doesn't matter because as long as it works... The vinegar tastes just fine.