Friday, April 29, 2011

The Hanged Man

The Hanged Man
by Scott Bradley


My introduction to Zhuangzi came by way of Thomas Merton's The Way of Chuang Tzu, an adaptation of the original. There were two stories that really inspired and hooked me into seeking out the original. The first of these is entitled The Hanged Man.

When I looked for this in the original, however, I could only vaguely discern where it had come from. So I asked a scholar and translator of the Zhuangzi if there was any textual justification for Merton's adaptation. He responded that No, there was not, but isn't Merton great!

I like little reminders like this that it is not scripture we're dealing with here, but simply ideas. Like Zhuangzi himself says, it's the ideas that matter, and when we've got them, we can toss the words away. We can also, hopefully, eventually toss the ideas away, too.

It is only one little part of this piece that inspired me. It goes something like this: It is said that a hanged man cannot cut himself down. But what need to worry? Eventually nature will bring him down.

That's it. I figured that that kind of indifference to and trust in fate was worthy of further exploration.

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

1 comment:

  1. Merton admits in his "Notes to the Reader" that his compilations are "imitations" of Chuang Tzu.

    The story you refer to is found in Merton's chapter called "Metamorphosis." (Just in case anyone is interested in looking it up,)

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