Thursday, December 20, 2012


Scott Bradley

What is the object of life? To have an objective is to have already lost it. "For Chuang Tzu says that life objective is life slippage. To strive to attain something is a sure way to miss it; conversely, to let life 'slip' is to 'attain' the goal of life." (Kuang-ming Wu; The Butterfly as Companion)

Wu suggests that "fun" is the objective of life left to 'slip' into itself. This, at any rate, is how he understands Zhuangzi. I agree, though I have often called it "happiness". Wu also adds this to the mix, being challenged by the implication of mere "frivolity". Happiness adds a more serious element. Yes, we must also give room to seriousness. "The ideal state of life is not "ideal" but ordinary — a subtle mixture of fun and happiness, frivolity and profundity . . ." "Seriousness keeps frolic from going flippant, and frolic keeps seriousness ever free and unstuck."

Life is not an idea, and thus ideas cannot convey it. For this reason we must temper our idea of "fun" with the "seriousness" of happiness for fear of falling into "frivolity". Yet life left to live need not make these distinctions.

Always philosophical Daoism uncovers this need to elucidate a meta-way: "true humaneness is not-humaneness", "true dao is not-dao", "true self is not-self", genuine doing is not-doing, true fun is serious, true seriousness is fun, true happiness is not-happiness. Why? Because only in this way is the dynamic of life released from the cage of words, or at least given the opportunity to be so. "Reverse your perspective; see the other side. Negate what you negated. Then you will see that a negated twice becomes a rendered flexible, cautious, alive." To master this without thinking you have mastered it or even that you need do so, is to "fly without wings".

Yes, fun-full-ness is a viable option, a possible way to live one's life. Enjoyment might be a suitable synonym. Enjoy life. Throw in the double negation to allow fun to be fun (true fun is no-fun); but don't forget to have fun.

But is this the object of life? If it were, it would cease to be fun. Life has no "object"; that is what makes it possible to live it fun-fully.

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

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