Sunday, September 30, 2012

Bit by Bit

Trey Smith

Beginning tomorrow in this time slot, I will set off on my next great adventure. Having written three series on the Tao Te Ching, the time has come for me to dive into the Zhuangzi. Before I launch this series, I want to note a few things.

First off, the Zhuangzi is a heck of a lot longer than TTC. Consequently, it would take me several decades -- I think -- if I tried to go line-by-line. This wouldn't do for another reason. Unlike Lao Tzu's poetry, much of the Zhuangzi is in paragraph form (at least, the English versions) and it contains many stories that span several paragraphs or pages. Consequently, looking at each line divorced from the others within each story or section simply wouldn't make a lot of sense!

While my intent is to chop up this long text into bite-sized pieces for daily digestion, there may be times when the quoted snippet is rather long. In some cases, it would be a great injustice to chop up a specific story as it would destroy its thrust and integrity. In those situations, I will endeavor to keep the story intact. In other cases, I will attempt to search for natural breaks in long sections.

The second thing I want to make clear is that I'm not offering this series as if I'm some kind of expert on the Zhuangzi. Scott has spent far more time reading and studying it than I have! My aim is to treat the text sort of like word association or ink blot exercise. I will offer a snippet and then we'll see what, if anything, it inspires me to write.

I'm sure there will be days in which it inspires me to write quite a bit. There may be other days in which I'm not inspired to write much...or anything. If no inspiration comes, I will try not to force it.

Finally, I may offer some quotes from a few others -- blogs, websites or books -- but don't expect this very often. While I have a number of books that analyze and comment on the TTC, my library for books that do the same with the Zhuangzi is VERY limited. I'm not saying that there are not books of this nature, but most of them are quite expensive and far outside of my limited budget.

So, for the most part, I'm flying solo on this one.

That said, I do have several different translations of the Zhuangzi at hand. In addition to the Watson translation featured in each post, I also have the Brooks Ziporyn, Gia-fu Feng/Jane English, Thomas Merton, Martin Palmer and Sam Hamill/J.P. Seaton translations as well. As I work on this series, I personally will refer to all of them in the hopes of gleaning different insights.

Who knows? During the course of this series, I may pick up a few more translations along the way.

I'm not sure how long this series will take. I'm guessing it will take a good long time, but I have no idea if it will go for a few months...or a few years. I guess we will just have to see, won't we?

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