Tuesday, February 5, 2013

All Are Well

Scott Bradley


If you have read just a few of these posts you have probably encountered my familiar refrain that "All is well" at least once. This is organically linked to my other constant refrain that "There are no conditions to meet." The first speaks to everything. The second tends to speak to the individual. If all is indeed well, then no individual thing is not likewise essentially well. These are, I believe, central pillars of Zhuangzi's philosophy, but if I am mistaken, no matter, they are central to mine. What I would like to do in this post is to flip them both over and look at them from the corresponding viewpoints of "all" or "each".

If all is well, then all are well. If there are no conditions for me to meet, then there are no conditions for you or anything else to meet. Clearly, we cannot have the one without the other. Self-affirmation necessarily implies universal affirmation. Indeed, though I cannot honestly wrap my mind around it enough to say so definitively, it is probably the case that there can be no self-affirmation without universal affirmation or universal affirmation without self-affirmation. (If I don't affirm 'me', I can't affirm you; if I don't affirm you, I can't affirm 'me'.)

What does seem clear is that a great deal of our criticism of others is largely a projection of our own issues. (It does not matter that they are 'true' of the other; it is what is true of me that matters.) Criticism is, in any event, a reflection of one's allowing what one does not like or approve of to "bug" one. To put it in Zhuangzian terms, it is to allow disharmony to enter one's Numinous Reservoir. But though this inner harmony is unaffected by the apparent outer disharmony, it would be mistaken, I believe, to think that the inner is altogether insulated from the outer; the inner harmony is realized and preserved not by erecting an impenetrable barrier, but, quite the opposite, by dissolving the barrier altogether. One's own harmony (which harmonizes one's own disharmony) harmonizes all disharmony. Disharmony does not enter because it has been harmonized in affirmation.

I recently quoted part of Guo Xiang's (252-312) introductory response to Zhuangzi; here it is more fully: “Though some are larger and some smaller, every being without exception is released into the range of its own spontaneous attainments, so that each being relies on its own innate character, each deed exactly matching its own capabilities. Since each fits perfectly into precisely the position it occupies, all are equally far-reaching and unfettered. How could any one be superior to any other?” (Ziporyn) This, I believe, perfectly captures the spirit of Zhuangzi’s suggestion that we “follow along with the ‘rightness’ of the present ‘this’.” “This” is all we encounter. Its “rightness” is that it is. Every deviation (and there are deviations, at least in the human sphere) takes place within this context and is thus harmonized, not by rejection, but by affirmation. This dynamic is logically inexpressible, as are most all things pertaining to life.

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

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