Sunday, August 1, 2010

Punishing Heaven, Part 1


by Scott Bradley

Confucius said, “As for myself, I am a victim of Heaven.”

Toeless said, “Heaven itself has inflicted this punishment on him (Confucius) — how can he be released?”

These two lines from the Inner Chapters of the Zhuangzi seem incongruous with what we have come to believe we understand of Zhuangzi’s philosophy of life. For this very reason they might help us to understand, and perhaps realize, that philosophy more fully. This essay is a consideration of just what lessons they might teach. More reflective than scholarly, it turns its back on ‘scientific’ hermeneutics and dispenses with textual and cultural context or a consideration of ‘what it meant to him.’ What do these statements mean to me?

I answer by way of paraphrase. Confucius said, “As for myself, I have discovered the constraints of the givens of my particular nature.”

I paraphrase the second: Toeless said, “This is a consequence of the givens of his nature — how could he be released from them?”

Note: At the conclusion of this miniseries, a link will be provided for those interested in downloading or printing the entire document replete with footnotes. If you want to catch up on parts of this or other series you've missed, go to Scott's Zhuangzi Index Page.

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