Cook Ding has allowed himself to become thickless. Thus has the knife in his hand also become thickless. And the knife discovers the ox to also be thickless, for the thickless finds infinite space wherever it goes. Thus does Cook Ding show us the way to nourish life.
Thicklessness is a synonym for emptiness. Emptiness in the Zhuangzian sense is essentially stepping aside and allowing the life phenomenon to freely flow through us. It is to be a conduit for the life that we are. This life is not something other than what we are; it is what we are. What "steps aside" is that which would have itself be something other than undifferentiated life. It is that which believes that it is a something that possesses life and therefore attempts to manipulate and nourish it. It is an obstruction in the conduit of the free expression of life. Thicklessness is thus a kind of openness wherein the heart allows free and unobstructed flow to what one is prior to self-assertiveness. Openness allows to be. Self-assertiveness insists that things be a certain way. Openness then is a kind of surrender; it is a surrender into what one is by virtue of giving up what one is not.
If self-assertiveness is yang and surrender is yin, then true yang is realized in yin. And true yin is realized in yang. Releasing yang into yin the human being re-emerges as yang fulfilled, an individuated, self-expressive experience permeated by yin. Being empty is the negation of nothing; it is the affirmation of everything. Empty, we are full. Surrendered, we are realized.
The way to nourish life is thus to allow life to nourish us. We do not feed life; life feeds us. We do not have a life; life has us. We are an expression of life and our fulfillment is in letting life express itself through us. Life is an expression of Dao; Dao is every expression. Life, death, inanimate-ness, nothingness — all possibilities are Dao. Surrender into life is surrender into Dao, and surrender into Dao is surrender into all things, every possible transformation. Thus, to nourish life is to let life nourish us, and to let life nourish us is also to let life transform into death. When the fuel is spent, the fire moves on. Identified with the fire for which our individuated self is but a momentary expression, our life is complete and fulfilled in death, as it was in life; nothing is lost.
Alternatively, we can make of self-assertiveness ‘pure’ yang and declare ourselves discrete entities in charge of life and its vicissitudes. But then the world becomes full of obstructions, a thicket of problems, thickfulnesses through which we must hack our way with a chipped and dulled knife. And inevitability, the end of our selves, fills us with dread.
You can check out Scott's writings on Zhuangzi here.