Saturday, June 9, 2012

More Guo: The Rightness of All Things

Scott Bradley

Hence, a person never becomes what the world calls wise and discerning because he decides he wants to be wise and discerning....If wise discernment and vision could be deliberately created because someone wanted them, then whoever wanted to be worthy could become worthy and anyone who deliberately endeavored to be a sage would be able to. This is obviously impossible.
(Guo Xiang; Zhuangzi, Ziporyn)
Guo has leapt from Zhuangzi's going "beyond the understanding consciousness" to his own "no being is worth more than any other being". Now he leaps to an exploration of the implication of this equality, namely, the rightness of all things.

The "understanding consciousness" discriminates (judges), pigeon-holes, defines and narrows. Transcending this, we see the equality of things, much as a herpetologist might see the equality of all snakes, whatever their species specific attributes. Similarly, this scientist affirms the rightness of each, the venomous and the 'harmless'; what Nature has wrought is "good".

It might be argued that Guo is simply saying that sagacity does not happen as a consequence of deliberate activity, but he is saying much more than this. He is saying that sages, like athletes and geniuses, are born, not made. Consequentially, we have no more business judging the fool for his foolishness, than we do praising the sage for his sagacity. No doubt there is wiggle-room and potentiality, but these, too, are rooted in the givens of who one is.

Elsewhere, Guo explains how each thing is perfected in being what it is: "Since each thing fits perfectly into precisely the position it occupies, all are equally far-reaching and unfettered. How could one be superior to any other?" We have little difficulty in understanding and appreciating this as applied to Nature when this is understood to exclude humanity; but Nature does not exclude humanity; we are also Nature-wrought. We find this mind-bending only because we continue to dwell in the mind.

Yes, Guo has been 'accused' of being a fatalist, and I suppose he in some sense is. But we need to be wary of this and every concept which pretends to define what is beyond our comprehension; the free-will versus determinism debate exists only as an abstraction; life itself unfolds beyond the ability of the "understanding consciousness" to define it.

The practical implication of all this is that we are able to accept every individual as who she is, or, as Zhuangzi has it, we are able to "follow along with the rightness of the present 'this'", "allowing each thing to find its own completion". If such a non-judgmental perspective seems not only incredibly naive and counter-intuitive, but also potentially morally destructive, then we were apparently not born sages. We continue to dwell in the "understanding consciousness". What remains is to find our wiggle-room.

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

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