Tuesday, June 12, 2012

More Guo: Life Lives Itself

Scott Bradley

And again, they don't know that life lives itself spontaneously, and thus they try to deliberately operate a 'life' to live with.
(Guo Xiang; Zhuangzi; Ziporyn)
How is it that we think we "have a life"? If we can understand this, we will begin to get a sense of that alternative way of approaching life which Daoism recommends. If life lives itself spontaneously — if my life lives itself spontaneously — then it is not I who is in control, but life itself. Zhuangzi discusses this at some length in the Inner Chapters and concludes that not only are we not in control, but we cannot, in fact, find anything or anyone who is. "Life", itself a mystery, inexplicably arises from Mystery.

Our evolved sense of self, however, having realized a sense of personal identity, and having taken this for a substantive reality, believes itself to be other than life: It "has" a life. This no doubt is largely responsible for most of our human 'achievements', but is also responsible for most of our human anguish. Having a life, I have a life to lose. And I shall. Having only an average IQ, a big butt, and a host of physical and emotional challenges, I have 'failed' to 'have a life' acceptable to myself and others.

We must remember that Guo's point here is that who we are is largely outside our control. It is thought that the fundamentals of who we are were well established by the time we were two, and a lot of that, at conception. Shall we take responsibility for that? If being a 'sage' is not only a worthy goal, but the only acceptable one, then we are all condemned to perpetual failure, for sages are born, not deliberately made. Guo is challenging us to let go into the givenness of life as manifest in ourselves. "No being is worth more than any other being." There are no conditions to meet.

The "understanding consciousness", imbued as it is with judgmentalism, immediately raises its hackles at such an idea. Not taking responsibility for yourself?! Shirking your responsibility to change?! Admittedly, this, and so much more of the Daoist vision, cuts across the grain of our fundamental control-self, our 'normal way of being in the world. But that's the whole point.

And the point is also to change; but not through the exercise of the mentality that largely necessitates the change in the first place, namely, the sense that one must change. Change is effected, not through striving to change, but through ceasing to do so.

It is when Yan Hui "finds what moves" him as an alternative to when his self "is full and real", that he discovers that he "has not yet begun to exist". And it is in this freedom from having a self in control that his transformation begins in earnest. To trust life as manifest in you, is to trust Dao. Entrust yourself.

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

1 comment:

  1. And we can not be in control of life as it went on perfectly well last night as we slept :-)

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