Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Step One

Scott Bradley


Somewhere in the Zhuangzi it says that every journey begins with the first step. (Sound familiar?) We might add that that step begins precisely where we are. Though another easily mouthed truism, this simple fact can become the focal point of the entire transformational enterprise. Indeed, it may well be that no spiritual transformation (growth) would otherwise be possible.

How close is this "beginning where we are" to where we are? Nothing could be closer; it is where we are; it is who we are; it is how we are. If we do not know where we are, can we take that first step?

Zhuangzi suggests a hypothetical devolution of human integration with reality, how we progressively obscured and lost our unity with reality (Dao) through discrimination. At first, there were those for whom "things-had-yet-to begin-to exist". This is the "ultimate" because nothing can be added to it and, therefore, it is the (unspeakable) oneness. Then there were those who thought things to exist, but for whom "borders-had-not-yet-begun-to-exist" between them. There was the one expressed as many. Then there came those for whom there were borders between things (uniqueness, self-so-ness), but judgment between them as right or wrong had-not-yet-begun-to-exist. Finally, there were those (us) who thought things to exist and saw rightness and wrongness among them. The interconnecting unity, equality and inherent “rightness” of things — Dao — was obscured and “lost”.

Where in this devolution and obscuration of Dao are we? This is where we are. This being the case, where might we best take our first step? And would that step be away from or into where we are?

Zhuangzi suggests that our first best step is into where we are. Having arrived at the nadir of Dao, having divided things up so as to rend them from their inherent oneness and having passed judgment on them, he immediately asks if there is any rending at all. Is our rending rending? How, in fact, could Dao be rent or obscured? It cannot. As those who judge, is our judging other than Dao? Zhuangzi does not pass judgment on judgment, but suggests that in the acknowledgement of our judgment as also-Dao we re-establish awareness of Dao. This is beginning where we are. This is realizing the oneness of our not-oneness. We begin where we are by affirming where we are as also-Dao; Dao happens at the nadir of its expression in us. Once again I have found a way to re-iterate that there are no-conditions-to-meet and all-is-well.

The path back to that hypothetical awareness of Unity, if such a thing be possible, does not negate any of these stages of devolution, but affirms and integrates them all as the wholeness of human experience.

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

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