Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Human

Scott Bradley


There is a great deal of debate both inside and outside philosophical Daoism about the relationship between the Heavenly and the Human. In a previous post we saw that the author of Chapter 23 of the Zhuangzi believed there to be essentially no distinction at all between Dao and the Human. "Only an insect can be an insect, and it is only by being an insect can it succeed in being the Heavenly." (Ziporyn) This likewise applies to the human. To be thoroughly human (a “Whole Man”) is to be the Heavenly; it is to be Dao.

But what makes humanity unique is its ability to psychologically diverge from the Human, and thus, from Dao. This does not change their essential unity, however. There are not "two". Thus, we have a distinction between the Human and the human, the actual and the psychologically divergent. This can lead to some confusion even within a single passage. This follows on the heels of the above mentioned unity of Dao and the Human:
If a man gets used to being insulted, he becomes impervious to shame, and finally forgets all about human viewpoints. Forgetting the Human makes you a man of the Heavenly. Only when a man merges with the Heavenly Harmony can he be respected without being delighted and insulted without being angry.
Here the Human is the human, which is to say it is that capacity in the human to diverge from Dao. And it is this capacity, needless to say, which must be 'forgotten' in order to restore the psychological unity, that is, harmony. But since to be Human is to be Heavenly, this harmony is, in effect, with oneself. There is nothing 'out there' with which to harmonize. There is only your own unique experience in which to harmonize. Dao is not 'God' in the sense of some 'thing' out there independent of everything else. There is no 'everything else'. The only 'separation' is a psychological one: "All dualism is falsely imagined." You are Dao, even when falsely imagining.

What is it in you that is delighted at praise and angry at insult? This is the heart of the matter, is it not? Forgetting this is harmony.

What does this look like in the real world, if, in fact, it ever actually happens? “Anger comes forth from him without himself being angry, so his anger is an expression of his nonanger. Actions come forth from him without himself being in action, so his actions are an expression of his nonaction.” This is the ideal Occupier. Her anger at injustice is a Human response to injustice, not this plus her human anger at having been abused or bullied or ignored. It is the inner anger, the disharmonious anger, which picks up the rock or hurls abuse. It is unlikely that there are many, or even any, such ideal people. This does not mean they should not protest nonetheless, but that they would be more effective if able to understand and separate these two roots of their anger, the Human and the human.

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

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