Tuesday, December 18, 2012

More On Parody IV

Scott Bradley

This series began with a look at the how Zhuangzi's use of parody puts our understanding of what he actually believed at risk. Did he actually believe that we should "smash up [our] limbs and torso" in the pursuit of the spiritual? No, he was responding to the Confucian belief that the "preservation of the body intact" is a necessary part of respecting our parents and ancestors. So, let's not get carried away; let's not get too literal. True spirituality, Zhuangzi tells us, forgets all these outward forms — moral goodness, religious observance, physical being — so as to "identify with the Great Thoroughfare" (Chapter 6). 'Confucius' got it: "If you are identified with it ["The Great Thoroughfare"], you have no more likes! [You have transcended preferences and addiction to good and bad, right and wrong.] If you've been transformed, you must have no more constancy! [You have been released from bondage to any one fixed form of religious expression.]"

"The Great Thoroughfare", also sometimes rendered "The Great Transparency” or "The Great Openness", says it all. Zhuangzi’s vision of spiritual liberation is to be released into this, non-discriminating, all-inclusive Dao. Moral concerns, cultural norms, care for the physical self, all these are important aspects of our world-involvement, but it is only when they have been "forgotten" that they can be effectively re-occupied. We are told that when the belt fits it is forgotten. This does not entail removing it and dropping one's drawers.

"Forgetting" something is not the rejection of something; it is allowing it to be, allowing it to arise naturally. If this differs from wu wei, doing without doing, it is hard to see how.

Thankfully, our understanding of Zhuangzi is always at risk. So let’s “sit and forget’ him, too. Let’s see what happens then.

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

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