Thursday, May 23, 2013

Waylessness II

Scott Bradley

We all have our way. Whether articulated or not, whether sharply defined or simply amorphous, whether rigid or ever-evolving — we all have that way by which we orient ourselves in and to the world.

A way, by its very nature, is chosen out from numerous possibilities, and this choice is necessarily an exclusion of some for the appropriation of another. The "path least taken" is still a path chosen. Such is life.

Yet Dao, that is Dao as descriptive of a kind of awareness, makes no distinctions, does not choose, excludes nothing. Understanding this, Zhuangzi suggested a way that, though it must of necessity exclude other ways, still is able to understand itself as just one way among many. This way declares the equality of all ways, yet also understands that to declare this, or anything else, is to necessarily negate all the ways that think otherwise.

Zhuangzi criticizes the Confucians and Mohists for criticizing each other. Is this pure hypocrisy, or is he aware of the contradiction? He is aware. He knows that if he speaks he acts contrary to Dao. Yet, because he is human he speaks. Being human is a messy business. Sex is great, but it is also messy. It can stain the sheets, lead to unwanted pregnancies, spread disease, cause hurt feelings. Yet, this does not stop us. Zhuangzi understands that being human involves a messiness that is not susceptible to disinfection. His way is not a way that seeks or promises perfection, but one that suggests a way of accommodation and approximation that brings its own freedom.

To understand how life does not lend itself to perfection is liberating. To understand this and still live messily is implied in what Zhuangzi calls "walking two roads". It is to be in the world, but not of it. One follows along with the necessary imperfections of life, and can do so because one knows that these imperfections are of no ultimate consequence. One allows the view from Dao — the view that affirms every human being, every microbe, every particle as equally acceptable — to inform us in our imperfections. When we can laugh at our own peccadillos, at our very own bondage, we have been informed by Dao.

How can this not change us? To be informed by total unconditional acceptance is not to be confirmed in our imperfections, but rather to be imbued with the power to grow — naturally.

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

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