Friday, February 1, 2013

Viewed from Dao: Embosoming All

Scott Bradley

Embosom all the myriad things, / Taking each one under your protective wings. / This may be referred to as universality. / The myriad things will be equally regarded, / There being no long or short among them.
(Wandering on the Way; [Zhuangzi, 17]; Mair)
I have just begun reading a book on deep ecology and am thus made more aware of how Daoism speaks to the 'issue'. At this point in human history it hardly seems adequate to speak of our earth environment as an 'issue'; our survival as a species may very well be threatened, and that of myriad yet-to-be-extinct species is almost certainly guaranteed. We are careening toward a certain cliff, seemingly without the ability to stop. As Zhuangzi would say, "How sad."

The quote above speaks to the caring that the Daoist perspective brings to our relationship with all things. This caring is rooted in a sense of universality; all cognitively limited boundaries are dissolved in a single vastness which unites them all, while each thing-in-itself is simultaneously affirmed in its uniqueness. Their oneness affirms their uniqueness; their uniqueness affirms their oneness. We cherish all things. At the same time, the Daoist perspective releases us from the fear of doom and loss. Nothing can be lost. One Reality loses nothing. All is well.

I say these things with relative ease, but can't begin to say them well. They are paradox in any case, and cannot be cognitively understood, but only pre-cognitively so; viscerally so. In thought, we can only juggle oneness/uniqueness and mattering/not-mattering without grasping any one extreme. Yet, it is essential that we embrace them both, for either extreme alone would either break our hearts or deaden them.

We would give all within our power to save our sick child, but our life would not end with hers. We cherish our parents and want that they ever remain with us, but they must surely pass and we must go on without them. "Fix the broken / though it will surely break again. / Heal the sick / though they shall surely die in the end." (Chen Jen) None of it makes 'sense'; nor should we think it should.

For earth we must weep; for what we take today as the norm was yesterday catastrophe. But there is so much yet to preserve, so much more to lose. Philosophical Daoism does not offer us a list of ethical imperatives, but suggests an organic way of integrating with our apparent reality that it might show us a whole and healthful way. And out of this arises the call to care for all things, to care for this earth as for our mother. It does not tell us to go to the barricades, but it may very well lead us there, for without putting our own lives on the line, without deep involvement, 'caring' is just a useless and painful emotion. What must we do to stop the Keystone Pipeline, an artery of death that would transect the North American Continent and threaten not only that, but the entire earth? How can we not take a stand here? Our madness erupts everywhere, but perhaps here is a place to say an immoveable "No" out of the depths of our boundless "Yes".

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

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