Thursday, March 7, 2013

Grafted to Identity

Scott Bradley


Most evenings those senior among the disciples of Zhouzi would crowd into his chambers to clarify discussions and events that transpired during the day. One evening, Liu bowed and asked, “Master, you have said that if your way could be dishonored, that would be dishonor enough. I have thought long on this, and understand that a way that can be dishonored is one that fails of non-attachment, but still it draws me in toward an understanding I cannot find. Can you help me to understand?”

“When did I say this, and to whom?” replied Zhouzi. “My memory fails me.”

“Master, you were speaking to Jiao only a few days ago.”

“Ah, I remember now,” answered Zhouzi. “But Jiao is here among us, so let’s see what he understood.”

“Master,” Jiao responded, “Liu is not alone in having found these words limitless in their appeal. And I, too, have concluded that a way, to genuinely lead to transcendence, does not exist in such a way that it can suffer either honor or dishonor; for only in grasping something fixed are we susceptible to honor or disgrace. If there is something to champion or defend, then there is something upon which we depend.”

“You have both understood,” replied Zhouzi. “That you hunger for more ‘understanding’ is because you wish it to be true in you. Have you heard of the ‘madman’ from Sung upon whom all that knew him heaped ridicule and scorn? They all thought him crazed and vulgar and laughed at him in his disgrace. But he only laughed with them and never let dishonor find a place in his heart. At first this only served to increase their attacks, but soon they all fell silent, their approbations having found no home. There is only dishonor when dishonor finds a home. All the world may have thought him dishonored, but if he owned it not, what dishonor could there be?”

“Jiao believed he had dishonored this way, because he had grafted it to his identity, and this is ever susceptible to honor and disgrace,” concluded Zhouzi.

At this Jiao laughed and exclaimed, “Master, it was just so!”

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