Thursday, February 24, 2011

Get a Life?

Get a Life? Or Let Life Get You?
by Scott Bradley


The expression “Get a life”, largely intended as an insult, implies that life is empty unless we fill it. And how does one do that? By being active, seen and esteemed. In short, we must possess life and ‘be someone’.

Zhuangzi would certainly agree that life is empty, only his response is radically different. “The vital energy (qi, life force) is an emptiness awaiting the presence of beings,” he wrote. Like Tao, of which it is an expression, there is nothing it is not and nothing it is. Or, as Guo Xiang has it, “There is nothing it is not being, but it is not being whatever it is; it is everywhere present but only as an absence.”

And though it would seem a natural response to try and full this emptiness with a ‘someone’, being one of these awaited ‘beings’ in a substantial and permanent way, we know in our hearts that the emptiness always remains. Zhuangzi therefore suggests an alternative: Rather than trying to have a life, let life have you. Take this emptiness as an invitation to ride along with life itself, one with the ever-transforming flow. Here, fullness arises naturally, and fear finds no home; for having no life, we have no life to lose.

Thomas Merton’s adaptation of Zhuangzi says it so well:

Who can free himself from achievement
And from fame, descend and be lost
Amid the masses of men?
He will flow like Tao, unseen,
He will go about like Life itself
With no name and no home.

You can check out Scott's writings on Zhuangzi here.

1 comment:

  1. As one who is about to lose my current job (which while not a good thing economically, is giving me an oddly light heart) I find this post very appealing.The problem was things weren't flowing, I was blocked; now they have an opportunity to open up.

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