Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Conversion Experience X

Scott Bradley

The Consummate Person uses his mind like a mirror, rejecting nothing, welcoming nothing; responding but not storing. Thus he can handle all things without harm.
(7:14; Ziporyn)
This is Zhuangzi's closing definitive statement regarding the qualities of a sage. In all my blabber about the Zhuangzi I do not believe I've ever discussed it; the imagery, however straight forward, has never really resonated with me. It does so a bit more now by way of the seemingly incidental phrase "uses his mind". This implies an active engagement in the world that "being like a mirror" alone does not suggest, and it is this seemingly static state of disengagement that failed to appeal.

The mirror-mind is thus a tool that the sage uses to engage with the world, to recognize and affirm it, and yet remain internally undisturbed by it. It "rejects nothing". This is an affirmation that is not an endorsement. It recognizes things as they are, people as they are, events as they arise. Is there slaughter in Egypt? Yes; this is what humanity does; we are all of us fucked-up. To "welcome" it would be to invite it into our "Numinous Reservoir" where it would not only disturb our peace and joy, but would also create in us the very same attitudes that currently prevail in Egypt (as throughout the world). We would wish to slaughter the slaughters.

For all our blabber about "caring", little caring seems manifest. If we are not filled with anger and sorrow, we are either sages or we really don't care all that much. This is the great irony — to care is to be outraged and wounded to the quick, and it is this that requires a mind like a mirror. Most of us need no such thing; we have our smart phones, our comfortable lives, and our own little problems. The sage is not someone who does not care, but cares so much that she is required to use her mind like a mirror just to remain effective and sane.

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

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