Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Simple Way IV: Yes Again

Scott Bradley


The Simple Way is essentially a restatement of the proto-Daoism of Zhuangzi; it does not lay claim to any new insights. The fundamental affirmation of the apparent world as an expression of Mystery is essential to Zhuangzi and philosophical Daoism generally. This is most clearly seen in his advocacy for the affirmation of the inevitable. The inevitable is most obvious in death, and it is to this he most frequently addresses himself. This affirmation goes well beyond a stoic acceptance that one must die; it understands that until one has thoroughly embraced one's death as as good as one's life, one has yet to live the goodness of life. ("What makes my life good, also makes my death good.") What is true of death, is equally true of every eventuality which befalls us. Quite simply, nothing 'bad' can happen to us. This touches upon the absolute trust implicit in the metaphor of "hiding the world in the world" where it is impossible that anything could be lost.

A curious thing about saying Yes to everything is that it is a choice. We might just as easily say No. However, Daoism understands that life itself is affirmation. Life is predicated on an organic, pre-reflective impetus to live, and Daoism's first principle is to integrate with what life is. The Yes of Daoism is thus first and foremost an agreement in spontaneity with the pre-reflective experience of life. A 'doctrine of affirmation' is subsequent and secondary.

Philosophical Daoism is rooted in experience, not well-reasoned principles. It affirms all things not because it makes sense to do so, but because this is what life does. The difference between Yes and No is that Yes is rooted in experience whereas No is rooted in intellect. I have often refered to the existentialists in this regard. Camus is a prime example. Ostensibly more concerned with the phenomena of experience than the formulations of reason, he nonetheless denied life (understood as on 'one string' with death) because it does not make 'sense'. The 'absurdity of human existence' is dictated by the imposition of reason on life, not by life itself.

To say Yes or No to life, and by implication to all that is, is thus a matter of choice. The good news is that, apart from the temporal benefits that arise from living harmoniously, it all comes out in the wash in any case. Nothing is lost.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

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