Monday, September 19, 2011

Some Reckless Words

Some Reckless Words
by Scott Bradley

I'm going to try speaking some reckless words. How about listening just as recklessly?
(Zhuangzi, 2:41; B. Ziporyn)
In this way Zhuangzi has one of his characters, Chang Wuzi, introduce his description of a sage. In what sense are these words reckless? That it is really Zhuangzi who is speaking provides a context for an answer. Throughout the Inner Chapters he reminds us that ultimately all words are reckless when they seek to definitively describe anything. Words are always and only metaphor. They point; they are not the reality itself.

Words are not always necessary, if we wish to point. A finger will often do. Or silence. Or a grunt, shout or slap. But words are sometimes necessary, or, at least, most effective. Their use does require, however, that the one who listens likewise does so 'recklessly'. I understand this to mean that the listener realizes that he or she is invited to participate in the charade of meaning so as to experience what words cannot convey. Yet even this is experimental. "Let's see what happens when we consider things from this perspective." Hidden truths are not being conveyed through devious means. There are no truths to convey.

Though this perspective clearly rubs shoulders with Zen and perhaps other traditions as well, it is, I think, uniquely Zhuangzian. Tentativeness is not only Zhuangzi's point of departure, but the only path he follows. He possesses no nugget of ultimate truth. No answers are on offer. He simply suggests that we consider openness and unfixedness as a means to follow along harmoniously with life as we experience it. To truly open oneself to any one thing is to open oneself to all things, and this is to open and vanish into the Vastness.

"The Radiance of Drift and Doubt are the sage's only map."

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

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