Monday, June 3, 2013

Equalizing Things VIII: Perfect

Scott Bradley


"Every thing is perfect by virtue of its being perfectly what it is."

I offer these words for your consideration. Because it is I who has written them, however, they first invite a disclaimer: If they say something worth saying, then I need to hear them as much as anyone else, if not more so.

I believe this understanding of the "self-rightness" of all things is completely consistent with and naturally arises from the philosophy of Zhuangzi, although it is much indebted to Guo Xiang's interpretation of him.

To truly understand what these words mean something has to break and fall away. What is it? I need not say; any engagement with them should make it clear.

Zhuangzi invites us to try and see the nature of reality in a way untypical of human inclination. Typically, we imagine a gap between what 'is' and what 'should be'. Things have to improve. We have to improve. We have to prove ourselves; prove our worthiness; prove our merit; make our mark; justify our existence. It is not enough that we 'are'; we must 'be' in a certain way.

Zhuangzi asks, "How could courses [daos] be so obscured that there could be any question of genuine of fake among them?" (2:15; Ziporyn) Dao is understood as that perspective from which all things are embraced and affirmed; how is it then that we affirm some, but not others?

I have previously quoted Yuan Hongdao (1568-1610) on 'right and wrong' and offer him again now for the sheer poetic power of his description: "Between heaven and earth there is nothing that is free from rights and wrongs. The world is a city of rights and wrongs. The body and the mind are a house of rights and wrongs. Wisdom, stupidity, worthiness and worthlessness are the fruits of rights and wrongs. All of history is a deserted battlefield of rights and wrongs. The people of the world drown and float in rights and wrongs, wrongs and rights, clinging to their rotting remnants like fat insects dangling from the ends of branches. . . . Alas! Right and wrong run amok through the minds and dispositions of people, and they cling to these as Truth. All the theories and assessments made by the worthies and sages . . . are ultimately rooted in nothing more than this." (Ziporyn)

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

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