Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Joy of Hemorrhoids

Scott Bradley

In the expiation ceremony, cows with white spots, pigs with upturned snouts, and humans with hemorrhoids are considered unfit to be offered as sacrifices to the river god. All the shamans know this, and thus they regard these as creatures of bad fortune. But this is exactly why the Spirit Man regards them as creatures of very good fortune indeed!
(Zhuangzi, 4:19; Ziporyn)
It is easy enough to understand how a case of hemorrhoids might be considered fortunate if they saved you from being sacrificed, but much more difficult to understand how this might 'save' one in the context of the human condition in general. But this is the reality which this and other passages extolling the virtues of uselessness are intended to convey.

Think of the typical human experience as a particular way of being in the world which includes everyone from the most afflicted to the most blessed — and consider how this way is fundamentally deluded and distraught. In this context, whatever might assist one to find another, happier way of being in the world would be fortunate indeed.

As we watch the rich, famous and 'successful' regularly crash and burn, we wonder how it could be so; we struggling nobodies seem to be coping so much better than they. Might not this be because, while we still aspire to catch the brass ring, they have already caught it and have discovered it to be just a meaningless piece of metal?

There is, of course, no intrinsic value in our afflictions, any more than in our blessings; it's how we respond to and use them that makes all the difference. Nor is there anyone who is without them; we are all essentially in the same boat.

Thus, within the context of humanity as a whole, we see the relatively blessed and the afflicted, and yet discover that they are essentially the same. We all "tread the moving stair"; we all pursue fulfillment in that which cannot fulfill.

Zhuangzi's message is that, should we be fortunate enough to fail of the 'rat race', we might be awakened to an altogether different way of being in the world, one that need not race at all. This is a way that requires no success or fame, affirmation or esteem — it is a way dependent on nothing.

But let's not fool ourselves. Few are we indeed who are able to realize freedom, no matter how many our afflictions. We strive on in pride, in anger, in hope, and in denial. Like Igor in The Young Dr. Frankenstein, we defiantly ask, "What hump?"

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

1 comment:

  1. thanks for the reminders. chuang tzu is certainly my favourite pointer and painter of Tao. I'm not sure we'd have half the learning and enjoyment if Taoism was reliant only on lao tzu.

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