Friday, March 30, 2012

Blurred Yet Unmuddied

Scott Bradley


After his appeal to the "one assertion" regarding the omnipresence of Dao described in the previous post, Zhuangzi becomes lost in his subject and exclaims what this means in his own experience: "Let's try doing nothing together, shall we? Flavorless and unmoving! Blurred yet unmuddied! Blended yet in-between! Having emptied my will, I have no destination, no idea where I am. Coming and going, I know not where I come to rest. I come and I go in it, never knowing where it all ends. Soaring through the vastness, the Great Understanding enters into me, never understanding where it is brought to a halt." (Zhuangzi, Chap. 20; Ziporyn)

It is unlikely that Zhuangzi actually said these things, of course. Nor is it likely that the one who put these words in his mouth experienced them to the extent we might wish to believe. It is more likely that he experienced intimations of them. In any case, we do not know; nor could we ever know what is entirely the subjective experience of another.

All we can do, like the author himself, is attempt to "soar through the vastness" and see how it feels. This is easily done. An act of imagination seems all that is required. What else is there really to do? What else do we need to know? There is lots to do and know, admittedly, but what are they but the preparation of the launch pad of imagination? Understanding only how this experience differs from the one we typically experience, and armed with the testimony of others, we set forth.

At best, we can probably only approximate the ideal state of mind set before us. Yet the experience is real, and it finds new expression in us.

I have shared the extensive quote above thinking it might inspire the imagination. It provides a model, but means little unless we launch.

I have chosen “Blurred yet unmuddied” as the title to this post because I think it speaks to the doubtful virtue of this experience for the observer, on the one hand, and the lack thereof for the one experiencing it, on the other. “Flavorless?” “No idea where I am?” Perhaps you have to experience it to understand how it liberates.

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

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