Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Equalizing Things XVIII: Celebrating Reality

Scott Bradley


Zhuangzi continues his "reckless words" about the nature of a 'sage': "He is there taking part in the diversity of ten thousand harvests, but in each he tastes one and the same purity of fully formed maturation. For to him each thing is just so, each thing is right, and so he enfolds them all within himself by affirming the rightness of each." (Zhuangzi, 2:41; Ziporyn)

If definitive clarity is "reckless", then this statement qualifies. Few statements in the Inner Chapters present so clearly the ramifications of the realization of the equality of things. And yet it remains wonderfully poetic and enigmatic. In affirming and embracing each and every thing as "just so" and "right", the sage takes part in the self-so celebration of each. He "tastes" each one. And in each he finds the same full expression of Dao. The Zhuangzian vision of full freedom in this world of apparent enslavement is of participatory joy.

This same vision is echoed in the fifth chapter where he describes the mind of the sage, the Numinous Reservoir (=Heavenly Reservoir), thus: "That is what allows the joy of its harmony to open into all things without thereby losing its [own] fullness, what keeps it flowing on day and night without cease, taking part everywhere as the springtime of each being. Connecting up with this, your own mind becomes the site of the life-giving time." (5:16) This passage is 'obscure' and susceptible to various renderings, but the participatory involvement of the sage in the celebration of each thing in being itself remains throughout.

Thus, all this use of reason, paradox and the critique of language had as its goal to open us up to this. The whole second chapter is but a fish-trap that Zhuangzi would not only have us forget, but probably burn, once we have caught our fish. All our speculations about the degree and nature of Zhuangzi's skepticism and relativism miss the point entirely if we fail to experience that to which these things are intended to direct us.

Is such an experience even possible? I do not know. Only I can say that for me, this vision is profoundly inspiring and one worthy of pursuit if only in hope of some degree of approximation. It is an invitation to celebrate reality however it apparently manifests. It is a resounding "Yes" to all that is. It is Dao as a way of being in the world and requires no belief or creed beyond that which entrusts itself to the self-affirming nature of life itself.

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

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Scott. Reminded me of James Joyce's use of "Yes" in Ulysses (though Joyce was a big proponent of the "resounding 'Yes' to all that is," as you put it, in all of his works). The word "Yes" is hidden in the title, "Ulysses," and "yes" is the last word in that novel. Joyce's final work, the great Finnegans Wake, is entirely "Zhuangzinian." Robert Anton Wilson wrote a perceptive article (in 1959!) on Joyce and Tao: http://www.deepleafproductions.com/wilsonlibrary/texts/raw-taojoyce.html. Sorry if I'm repeating myself...not sure if I already commented on the Joyce-Taoism relationship. By the way, I'm still hoping you'll publish these posts in book form...even if "just" an e-book. Out of all the entries in my Reader app, I always take the time to read your posts.

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