Saturday, May 26, 2012

Your Shadow Is Free II

Scott Bradley


Guo Xiang (252-312), as we have previously seen, worked from the thesis that Dao is Non-Being, and since Non-Being cannot create Being, nothing is created; all things spontaneously arise as a self-creation. And though I feel this goes much too far into the realm of speculative metaphysics when no such journey is required, and seeks to establish belief on the basis of logic, it does, nonetheless, rest firmly on the fundamental Daoist understanding that Dao does nothing, yet nothing is left undone. Things simply happen spontaneously. Wu wei, non-doing, is a Daoist value because it is at the very foundation of apparent existence.

"Thus, only after you understand that forms form themselves," writes Guo, "can you understand what is meant by creation. Hence, of all things involved in the realm of existence, even the penumbra, there has never been one that did not transform itself in its own solitary singularity, constantly positioned in the realm where all agency vanishes." (Ziporyn)

The implications of this understanding are profound on many levels, and I confess that I cannot follow them far. But we need not do so to begin to understand some of the practical implications for our being in the world. "One who understands his principle," continues Guo, "allows each of the ten thousand things to return to its source within its own self without depending on anything outside itself, externally without apology and internally without pride."

This is a restatement of Zhuangzi's affirmation of the 'rightness' of each and every thing. All things affirm themselves as a matter of course, and the sage, looking at things from the perspective of Dao, affirms them in their self-affirmation. All things are respected, not for what they are, but because they are. We do not affirm some and dismiss others.

But perhaps more importantly, because it is the basis of our relationship with others, is an understanding of how this principle works within ourselves. We are also enjoined to "return to the source within ourselves without depending on anything outside ourselves, externally without apology and internally without pride." The Zhuangzian vision is one of freedom from all dependence through the letting go of all within ourselves that requires support. Nothing need be propped up. Without a fixed identity, what need have we for external affirmation? Finding life a spontaneous arising within ourselves, outside any known agency, including our own, what need have we to grasp it or fear its loss? Surrendered into "the vastness at the root of things", having found it in herself, Zhuangzi's sage depends on nothing, neither self nor others. She wanders far and unfettered, riding on the backs of all she encounters, because she has entrusted herself utterly to the way things are; for this is Dao.

The rocks are free; the birds are free; the penumbra is free; your shadow is free. Upon what do they depend? They simply are. Simply be.

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

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