Friday, April 15, 2011

Like Water

Like Water
by Scott Bradley


Fung quotes Confucius: "The wise delight in water; the good delight in mountains. The wise move; the good stay still. The wise are happy; the good endure." He uses this as part of his thesis regarding the agrarian roots of Chinese society and philosophy, but I would like to take it more as it was probably intended, though with a Zhuangzian twist.

Cutting to the chase, this basically says that the sage has no-fixed-identity. This does not mean that he has achieved some kind of static state of no-self, but that his identity is ever unfixed and moving, always identifying with, as Zhuangzi says, "the present 'this'. He has no fixed identity to defend because his identity always "vanishes" (Xuo Xiang) into present circumstances.

Think about it. Nothing can deprive him of his happiness because his happiness is always found in his present experience, whatever it might be. "The good endure", stoically, because they do not go with the flow, but steal themselves against it. Metaphorically, fire cannot harm the wise, because he is that fire. (It might be agonic, and it might lead to death, but he is that death.) He has no gods or ideas to defend, nor is there any need to attack the gods or ideas of another.

Needless to say (though I say it), this has nothing to do with moving physically. The sedentary can experience this as easily as the nomadic.

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1 comment:

  1. Nice analysis.

    "The good endure", stoically, because they do not go with the flow, but steal themselves against it.
    This also makes me this of how people often say "the good die young," which is not a very Taoist sentiment.

    (Copy editor attack: they "steel" themselves against it.)

    Although you can make a case that the Greek Stoics had some Taoist traits.

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