[L]ooked at from the point of view of their sameness, all things are one. . . . You just release the mind to play in the harmony of all Virtuosities. Seeing what is one and the same to all things, nothing is ever felt to be lost. This man viewed the chopping off of his foot as nothing more than the casting away of a clump of soil.
(Zhuangzi 5:5-6; Ziporyn)
‘Confucius’ is explaining the sagacity of a man who has suffered the disgrace of having had a foot chopped off and yet still has people flocking to him though he teaches nothing. If we wanted a more concrete example of the practical expression of this view from Dao, we would be hard put to find it. Whatever happens to us, we can accept it with equanimity, for we have not identified ourselves with any one identity, the consequence of which would be to fear its loss, but with the totality of all transformations.
This same idea is wonderfully expressed in the sixth chapter where we are encouraged to “hide the world in the world”:
When the smaller is hidden within the larger, there remains some place into which it can escape. But if hide the world in the world, so there is nowhere for anything to escape to, this is an arrangement, the vastest arrangement, that can sustain all things. (6:27)
Identified, not with one’s one particular expression, but with one’s ‘sameness’ with all things transient, one need fear no loss. We might protest, of course, that we must lose ourselves for this to happen, but then how can we honestly believe that that self was ever anything but a grand illusion in any case? Is not the clinging to self as a discrete entity the source of our greatest suffering and of the suffering we inflict on others?
My sense of Zhuangzi here, and throughout his philosophy, is that, true to his suggestion that we “add nothing to the process of life”, he simply suggests we creatively respond to the way the human life experience presents itself to us. We need not conjure up a concept of a ‘One’ in order to see how things in their rising and passing bespeak a sense of oneness. We can do little else but “hand it all over to the unavoidable”, in any event. Whatever our beliefs and activities, they ultimately have no impact whatsoever upon the wonderful totality of transformations of which we and all other things are but momentary expressions.
Understanding in this how all is well, we are enabled to make them better in our present expression.
You can check out Scott's writings on Zhuangzi here.