Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Punishing Heaven, Part 10

by Scott Bradley

Like Song Rongzi, Confucius has discovered his self, a degree of transcendence, but unlike Rongzi, who only laughed at those who have not, Confucius could also laugh at himself. This is a further transcendence.

Those who had transcended self and ‘gone beyond the lines’, likewise laughed at him. One must wonder if all this laughing is not the surest sign of transcendence. What is clear is that one must have a self in order to transcend it; one must have a self in order to lose it. And having a self is a question of awareness. Those who, in the exercise of self, are unaware of what that entails, though they are immersed in self, can also be said to have no self at all.

But if Confucius, among the greatest of teachers, was able to realize only a fulfillment of such limited proportions, what can be said for one who has no mirror in which to glimpse the source of his unease...a man punished by Heaven — a man for whom the gate of Heaven will not open — a man who must remain forever unaware of his self as limitation? But does not just this describe the innumerable multitudes of humanity extant or extinct and long forgotten? Indeed, is not this humanity in its actual expression?

If that is the case, then humanity is little different than the deer in the forest — and how fully realized they are! And this is the last and greatest laugh of all.

To view this essay in its entirety replete with footnotes, go here. 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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