by Scott Bradley
by Scott Bradley
"Let yourself be carried along by things so that the mind wanders freely. Hand it all over to the unavoidable so as to nourish what is central within you. That is the most you can do. What need is there to deliberately seek any reward? The best thing is to just fulfill what's mandated to you, your fate—how could there be any difficulty in that?" (Zhuangzi, 4:15; Ziporyn)
My first thought was to entitle this post "Go With The Flow", which is essentially what these lines teach. Unfortunately, we have seen that written on the bumpers of too many VW buses for it not to have become a cliché.
To be carried along by things is to let them happen without attachment to their consequences, whether for 'good' or 'ill'. Thus does the mind wander freely.
To hand it all over to the unavoidable is to have no care for the vicissitudes of life which must necessarily descend upon us. It is to release oneself into the Vastness, where nothing is lost. Have I said this before? A thousand times. And a thousand times more to myself for every time here. There is little else to say. Is it a mere formula, a psychological ploy? Perhaps, but it is the one I have chosen, and the one that seems most natural to me.
No escapism is implied here. If I am sick, I experience being sick. Yet in letting myself be carried along by this experience, rather than opposing it, I am free. Wang Fuzhi (1619-1692) comments on this passage: "How could wandering depend on a mind being determined to wander? It is just a lodging in the unavoidable. Life can then be a wandering, and death too can be a wandering." This happens as and within life, not outside it. It is doing and being what happens. It is always and only being here now.
Always I feel the need to qualify. Possible objections quickly come to mind. Too quickly, I would say. Zhuangzi offers us a savory dish which we are free to accept and enjoy, or let grow cold while we insist on inspecting the kitchen. If we feel inclined to do the latter, perhaps we should try the new fusion place around the corner. Only I suspect our minds will likewise raise objections there.
You can check out Scott's writings on Zhuangzi here.