Tuesday, December 25, 2012

"Wu Loses Wo" II

Scott Bradley


"I (wu) have lost myself (wo)" — this is the statement, and the possibility, that I began to address in the previous post but found I could not do without clarifying whether it makes any difference to do so. I hit the breaks and went into a skid from which I have not fully recovered. That, perhaps, is as it should be. In any event, here's some ruminations on what this might mean, stimulated by Wu's thoughts on the subject (The Butterfly as Companion).

Wu suggests the dreaming motif as a helpful way of getting a handle on what this means. Wo-self ("me"), the narrow, insular and closed sense of identity, is a dreaming that does not know that it is dreaming. It believes it exists. Because it believes it exists as an entity, it can only understand other entities as just that, "other".

To awaken to the dreaming, to realize that this sense of a discrete "me" is self-made, is to begin the process of loosening its hold on one. But to awaken to this dream is not to be free of dreaming; it is to realize that it's all a dreaming. Who then is it that realizes he is dreaming? It is the wu-self, a self that functions as a self, a locus and focus of awareness, but which is open in such a way that it participates in the totality of experience. This openness is Dao. This Dao is not a thing; it is an experience. Perhaps it would be better to call it Dao-ness.

Wu observes that this quality of "I" (wu) is not "I" before losing "me" (wo). "Wu shows itself in the disappearing of wo. Wu selfs itself in its unselfing." This is important because it reminds us that there isn't an entity "I" (wu) that we must discover, as if not also a dreaming, but rather something we create. We do not discover our "true self"; we create it. And because it is our creation we do not understand it as an entity (as we did the wo-self that we have "lost"), nor do we believe it to be some sort of answer to our inherent emptiness. Daoism's answer to our essential emptiness is not the discovery of something to fill it, but rather to become it. "It's just being empty, nothing more." We do not replace one unawakened dream with another, but embrace and revel in our necessary dreaming; we awaken to the dreaming and wander therein.

All of this might be more effectively communicated by simply saying that it is possible to become more that a "small consciousness" in opposition to and fearful of the larger world. When we declare ourselves to be "this" we are required to defend ourselves against "that". Losing our "this" (me), "that" becomes "this" and we together with it. There is only "this"; there is only everything affirmed. Once again, "under-heaven is safely tucked away in under-heaven".

What is "lost"? Nothing has ever existed that can be lost.

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

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