Sunday, June 9, 2013

Equalizing Things XIV: Kiss Me, You Fool!

Scott Bradley

Zhuangzi has declared himself one with all things, but we know better than to think he will let that stand unchallenged. "But if we are all one, can there be any words?" To speak of something is to have objectified it; but to objectify something is to have made it an 'other'; if there is an other, how can there be oneness? Words are intended to bridge a gap; oneness recognizes no gap.

"But since I have already declared that we are 'one', can there be no words?" There must, in fact, be a gap; words prove it. But does this gap preclude oneness? Elsewhere, Zhuangzi tells us that "not-one is also one", so apparently it does not. Advaita instructs us to speak of the non-dual rather than of oneness, recognizing that to say it is to negate it. Zhuangzi says the same here: "The one and the word are already two . . ." But Zhuangzi is apparently more comfortable with not-oneness; it really doesn't matter if it is all a dream, all an illusion; if this is that of which existence consists, then let us live precisely that. The advantage of realizing the dream-nature of the existence is not that we can thereby escape it, but that we can live it more playfully. If it's a dream, then we needn't take any of it too seriously. There really isn't anything else we need do; no redemption is required; everything will work out just fine; all is well. There is no need to "labor your spirit trying to make things one". Philosophical Daoism is not a project of redemption or of discovering the Ultimate, but simply of learning to harmonize with the way things appear to be.

Part of his demonstration of the oneness of things was in showing how trying to figure that oneness out just leads to more words. Existence, he tells us, predicates non-existence. But then there must have been "a not-yet-beginning-to-be-non-existence" and so on ad infinitum. Why not rather just say "suddenly there is non-existence", and have done with it? Since moving from existence to non-existence generates so many useless words, he concludes, why not just harmonize with things as they appear to be? "Rather than moving from anywhere to anywhere, then, let us just go by the rightness of whatever is before us as the present 'this'." (2:33; Ziporyn)

I take this re-iteration of this recurrent refrain as moving beyond the mere acceptance of circumstantial opinion to include all that comes our way. If 'not-oneness' is a necessary condition of existence, then let us live that not-oneness. Let us accept and affirm all that we experience. Harmony does not arise from changing things, but in "following along" with them.

While we are hemming and hawing about the nature of reality, reality just exclaims, “Kiss me, you fool!”

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

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