Friday, May 17, 2013

"By Nature Warped"

Scott Bradley


The Church of Pernicious Oneness, of which I am a proud (and the sole) member, has adopted a new motto: "By Nature Warped". The royal we would like to thank Xunzi (c. 312-? BCE) for his inspiration by means of the negative norm in bringing us to a further realization of the joys of embracing our 'true nature':
[A] warped piece of wood must wait until it has been laid against the straightening board, steamed, and forced into shape before it can become straight, because by nature it is warped. Similarly, since man's nature is evil, he must wait for the ordering power...
(Xunzi 23; Watson)
Alas, we were in line with so many others waiting to be forced into the shape designated by the ordering power as acceptable, but now we are free.

Well, let us rather say that we have a renewed vision of what it means to be free from the tyranny of being 'unacceptable'.

The real ordering power, of course, is the grand inquisitor who dwells within. It is that power, instilled through the impress of society's conventions, that tells us that our acceptability is conditional; there are conditions which have to be met before we can rejoice in being who we are.

Xunzi's contributions to our understanding and appreciation of what Zhuangzi and Laozi were about are immeasurable. Both tell us that "the uncarved block" is truer to who we are than the steamed, forced and shaped. If "warped" is what we are, then let us rejoice in being warped. Here our perniciousness is at its most wanton joyfulness. Here we discover an open-heartedness that not only overflows in kindness toward ourselves, but also to all others. Let the ordering powers worry that we might thereby run amok; we know that hereby we grow in our own affirming wholeness and that that ameliorating affirmation spreads out around us.

Zhuangzi's "usefulness of the useless" is an acknowledgment of the benefits of being warped — if only we can avoid the straightening board. If we are sufficiently warped we are left alone to be who we are — if only we can embrace our uselessness.

Woodworker Qing prepared his heart and let it settle into its natural receptivity before entering the forest to discover if there was a tree that by nature contained a bell stand. "Matching the heavenly with the heavenly" he found that tree and created a thing of great beauty. Might we speculate that the tree was far from straight, but rather gnarled, warped and twisted?

We at the Church of Pernicious Oneness have hardly yet begun to understand the ramifications of embracing the joys of being by nature warped; only we know that they are many.

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

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