Saturday, October 27, 2012


Scott Bradley

Wang Fuzhi sums up Zhuangzi’s perspective on reality saying, "It's only the play of this wandering, nothing more." It is worth exploring how this wandering is also play.

For the child, play is largely a matter of pretending, and this, I would submit, is something of which the sage is also a master. Pretending that knows it is pretending is play. But why pretend? Nietzsche tells us that "untruth is a condition of life"; we require our daily dose of fiction to function in the world. The sage plays the game, knowing that it is a game. This is a form of transcendence.

Play is fun. And if life is not fun . . . well, that's no fun. I often speak of laughing as a form of transcendence. When we laugh at misfortune, grasping the seemingly infinite irony that is life as a whole, we transcend. And most importantly, when we laugh at ourselves, our own stupidity, our own bondage, our own 'failings', we transcend.

Seriousness has its place; but when seriousness judges and condemns, and makes of 'enlightenment' or 'awakening' some kind of driving necessity, it has become religion; it has robbed life of the possibility of playful wandering.

Playful wandering is now, just as you are, not a sage, not 'awakened', just human.

Nietzsche's Dionysian philosophy, a vision of Pan playfully cavorting through life surrounded by nubile and willing nymphs, despite the apparent tragic character of life, is another expression of this same perspective.

Yet, when I imagine Nietzsche in his elysian fields, I see him attempting to frolic while shackled to a ball and chain. He rightfully condemned 'civilization', with its creation of a "true world" as opposed to this actual world, as a great negating of life, but he formulated a response which was also steeped in negation. In declaring himself an antichrist, an immoralist, a re-creator and the like, he bound himself to the world of discrimination, and thus to negation. He went to war.

There is a great deal 'wrong' with the world and with us. Playful wandering dances on and through it all. It knows that it doesn't matter. It does not depend on salvation. It does not depend on change. It has no need of conquest. It knows only that life wants to laugh and dance and be what it is, and thus it lets it be so.

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

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