Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Dao of Poltical Power VIII: The Death of Chaos

Scott Bradley


A wider view of our circumstance of being in a Universe typified by chaos does not mean that we cannot try to kill it. In the end we cannot do so, since all we do is but an extension of that chaos; but we do have the ability to deceive ourselves into thinking we can. What Zhuangzi is telling us is that when we reconcile ourselves with this wider view our ameliorating efforts within the human sphere will be rendered more effective.

Two people are arguing; we jump in with arguments of our own; has arguing been brought to an end? Two nations are at war; another takes sides with one against the other; has war been averted? Might there not be another way?

The Inner Chapters end with a simple yet poignant story about the death of Chaos. Chaos ruled between two other realms and often graciously hosted their rulers in his own realm. Appreciative of his kindness these two rulers decided to do him a favor and give him the 'seven holes' of humanity. Each day they gave him another, and on the seventh day, "Chaos died." (7:15)

The best intentions do not suffice to guarantee the best results. Sometimes things are best left to work themselves out. What is required is that we come to rest in the larger view where nothing has to change; then we can go about changing things with a lighter hand. Just as the cook's blade that "has no thickness" can insinuate itself into those places where there is no space, so our not-doing can effect true change where it could not otherwise be.

Zhuangzi's philosophy most radically touches upon the exercise of political power just here. As with most things Daoist, it is paradoxical and counter-intuitive. It all comes down to this: To make a genuine, quantum difference, it is necessary that we be different — genuinely different.

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

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