Sunday, November 11, 2012

Making the Tally Whole

Scott Bradley

The sage, holding onto the left half of the tally
Does not demand payment from others;
The person with potency (de) takes charge of the tally,
The person without potency looks to collecting it.
(Daodejing 79; Ames?; italics mine)
This admittedly "obscure" (Ames' assessment) portion of the Daodejing opens as a door when seen in the context of the overall Daoist vision of all-inclusiveness through openness and "the extension of one's de". The "authentic person", writes Ames ("Knowing in the Zhuangzi"; Wandering at Ease in the Zhuangzi), "embraces the de of the natural as well as the human environment", by "becoming coextensive" with it. This is Zhuangzi's "the ten thousand things and I are One", not as theory, but as experience.

The "tally" was the way in which an agreement was sealed and subsequently verified; a piece of bamboo was broken in half with each half held by one party of the agreement; only these two pieces could possibly be reunited to form a whole and thereby confirm the agreement. In this instance, the tally represents a financial debt; the left hand piece is held by the creditor, the right by the debtor.

The person of Daoist sensibility, one who is opening himself to the Totality, extending her de, her particular expression of dao, to include and be lost in all things — this one assumes both sides of the tally, the whole. Rather than displaying the left hand tally in anticipation of payment, this person unites with her debtor, with the other side of the tally, in such a way that she is both creditor and debtor, and these two cancel each other out. One need not pay back oneself.

I said this "opens a door". By this, I mean that it enables an experience of what is meant by experiencing one's particularity as "co-extensive". There is someone who owes me some money, and although I have given little thought to the when and if of repayment, it has remained a creditor/debtor (self/other) relationship nonetheless. Suddenly, I experience the dissolution of that boundary, the self/other dichotomy, and realize my debtor as myself.

If various 'practical' considerations immediately raise their hydran heads (How could I feed my family!?"), I can only suggest that we not let a particular example rob us of the opportunity to experience what is a profoundly wonderful "joining with the Great Thoroughfare", the "Transforming Openness". There are other doors where one may begin.

I have a friend (though I’m told I do not) who essentially holds me in contempt (I being deemed a person of poor character); can I not open to and include this one as really just an extension of my de (and mine of his)? How, in the end, is his judging of me any different than mine of myself? And where is judgment when the tally is whole? The Daoist vision of transcendence is just this, all-embracing, all-inclusive.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

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