Monday, March 26, 2012

Deathlessness I

Scott Bradley


Not long ago Trey observed that death is probably something he will never experience. Assuming that death is the extinction of the individuated consciousness, this seems the nature of the case. No one, in this case, has ever experienced death. All we are blessed to experience is dying. But this is really just more living; for, as the logicians tell us, everything, once born, is dying. (Or Dylan: "Everything not busy being born is busy dying.")

The author of Chapter 22 of the Zhuangzi seems to have been of similar opinion: "The formless takes on a form; the formed veers back to the formless; this is something everyone knows and need not be managed in any way when it is about to happen. It is something everyone has a theory about, but when it arrives there is no more theorizing, and when there is theorizing that means it has not yet arrived. When it is seen clearly, that just means it has not really been encountered, so debate about it is no match for silence." (Zhuangzi; Ziporyn)

This passage has a larger context, of course, and that is the recognition that the "formless" and the "formed" are aspects of one whole. Death and life are "one string". Life follows death and death follows life, so what's to worry about? Moving from one to the other, one never ceases to be part of the whole — even if one ceases to be.

Yes, but this frankly fails to satisfy, since it is 'existing' that concerns us and to which we cling. Yet Daoism tries to convince us that non-existence is as 'good' as existence. And its philosophical (as compared to emotional) rationale for doing so is that that just happens to be the way things are. Say "Yes" to Reality, it suggests. It basically all comes down to this: To affirm, or not to affirm.

But this “Yes” must be a great deal more than simply lip-service; to truly affirm the unity of life and death requires a revolution in the entirety of our way of our being in the world. The transcendent perspective is a quantumly different perspective. It is not an addition to our understanding, but its overturning.

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

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