Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Archer Yi IV: Targetless Living

Scott Bradley

Here's a mention of Archer Yi with a curiously Zhuangzian twist:
"Zhuangzi said, 'If an archer can be called skillful for hitting a target not designated in advance, then everyone in the world is a master archer like Yi. Would you agree?'"
"Huizi said, 'Yes.'
"Zhuangzi continued, 'If the world has no universally recognized standard of right, so each man affirms his own idea of rightness as right, then everyone in the world is a sage like Yao. Would you agree?"
"Huizi said, 'Yes.'
(Zhuangzi 24; Ziporyn)
Previously, we heard from Guo Xiang to the effect that we are all Archer Yi because we all ceaselessly aim at a target and frequently miss, doing injury to ourselves and others; we all divide up things, people and events on the basis of right and wrong, beneficial or harmful. Yet here, Zhuangzi would have us all be Archer Yi's in such a way that we could never miss. We could not miss because we would affirm every expression of reality regardless of outcomes. We are encouraged to enter a world of targetless living. Once again, Zhuangzi suggests we "follow along with the rightness of the present 'this'", things as they manifest.

Though he agrees with the logic of Zhuangzi's hypothetical statements, the logician Huizi, as we might expect, goes on to dispute their actual validity. He understands his right as the standard for universal rightness — just like the rest of us. Nor would we expect to find targetless living being taught anywhere in our goal oriented world. How would anything get done? How would we improve ourselves and the world?

Zhuangzi does not, of course, intend that we should ignore hurtful behavior or the many horrible injustices in the world. Rather, he would have us rise above the morass of purely reactive behaviors which are in effect commensurate with those which are opposed. When everyone has God (right) on their side, war becomes inevitable. Anger breeds anger; hate gives rise to hate. We become what we hate.

All this is admittedly intellectually counter-intuitive. But what's even more difficult to surmount is that it flies in the face of our "normal human inclinations". It's a hard pill to swallow. But if our world is a mess, it is so because we have all made it so, and thus real change will require a radical change in us.

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

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