by Scott Bradley
by Scott Bradley
From the point of view of the Course [Tao], no thing is more valuable than any other. But from the point of view of itself, each thing is worth more and all the others are worth less. And from the point of view of convention, the value of things is not determined by themselves.Taking the Tao as the norm, all things are of equal value. This is also the most fundamental principle of Deep Ecology. No thing exists solely for the use of another, however 'highly evolved'.
(Zhuangzi, Chap, 17; B. Ziporyn)
"The point of view of the Tao" is 'ecosophy', the wisdom of the Totality. It is a way of being in the world which embraces all the world. 'Tao' does not refer to anything other than this potential way of being in the world. It does not, in this instance, refer to the Nameless. The Way is always inseparable from life and is never other than a way of being in the world.
"The point of view" of each individual thing is that it is the most valuable. These two points of view, although seemingly contradictory, do not negate each other. They balance each other. I do not sacrifice myself for a fish; I sacrifice the fish for me. But I do so with thankfulness and reverence and regret, and in the knowledge that I, too, will someday feed others.
"The point of view of convention" is the imbalance of these other two perspectives. It is the belief that all things are solely for the use of human beings. In terms of environmental thinking, it means that the world is a 'resource' to be managed and wilderness is for recreational purposes and not for itself.
There is a delightful story in the Liezi in which the host of a banquet gives thanks to Nature for giving all things for the benefit of humans. But a young child pipes up, quite out of custom, I'm sure, and says, "Not so, Sir! We simply make use of them because we are the stronger. And following your reasoning, humans were made for mosquitos!" Out of the mouth of babes.... Each thing is ‘made’ for itself, or as Guo Xiang has it, ‘self-creates’ [spontaneously arises].
Myriad complex questions arise from these ideas. "What about...?" "What if...?" But the true beauty of life is that it lives itself. And the true beauty of the Way is that it is a natural way of being, without the hesitating and constipating constraints of mere ideas. It does not 'justify', it lives.
You can check out Scott's writings on Zhuangzi here.