Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ten Thousand Harvests

Ten Thousand Harvests
by Scott Bradley

While the mass of men are beleaguered and harried, the sage is dim and dense, standing shoulder to shoulder with the sun and moon, scooping up time and space and smooching them all together, leaving them all to their own slippery mush, so that every enslavement is also an ennobling. He is there taking part in the diversity of ten thousand harvests, but in each he tastes one and the same purity of fully formed maturation. For to him each thing is just so, each thing is right, and so he enfolds them all within himself by affirming the rightness of each.
(Zhuangzi, 2:41; B. Ziporyn)
I share this lengthy excerpt from Chang Wuzi's "reckless" description of the sage because it is, I think, one of the most beautiful expressions of Zhuangzi's philosophical vision.

In the first sentence, he describes how the sage perceives the Vastness. Where we might have expected to hear of indescribable perfection and illumination, we instead hear of slippery mush. Like his Great Clump, this reveals Zhuangzi's ironic irreverence toward any attempt to understand Mystery. If Nature is messy, then so also is Reality where we touch its hem. And this is why "every enslavement is also an ennobling." Every mess is Tao, and in the realization of this, is the ennobling of each and every thing. Your mess is Tao and thus is a gateway to your ennobling. Zhuangzi's unique presentation of the grotesque and deformed is, in part, aimed at conveying this very thing.

The sage discovers and enjoys the Vastness in everything, for every thing is its expression. He does not, however, make appeal to their participation in Oneness to affirm their 'rightness', but rather he sees their 'thusness' and 'rightness' in themselves. No hierarchy of Being is implied. Nothing is more 'real' than any other.

"He enfolds them in himself." They are he, he is they. Acceptance and affirmation dissolve all boundaries. Unity is not presupposed and applied from above, but arises from the things themselves. And this is why Zhuangzi never actually says anything so silly (as I sometimes do) as "All is One."

But these are all "reckless" words, a mere suggestion of a possibility. Has anyone ever experienced this? Has there ever truly been such a sage? Always, Zhuangzi would leave us with nothing but a "slippery mush". Just when we hope for an 'answer', he laughs and smiles at us as if to say, Don't you get it?

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

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