Monday, September 16, 2013

Total Dependence Means Total Freedom

Scott Bradley

Brook Ziporyn somewhere remarks, almost in passing, that it is precisely through acknowledgement of our total dependence that we achieve the freedom of non-dependence. I have explored this theme before, but more as a qualification than as an actual point of departure.

Can there be any question but that we are utterly dependent on all things, in every way and at every moment? Who is the controller? asks Zhuangzi. Who's in charge of this body? No controller can be found.

The freedom of non-dependence arises out from total dependence as a matter of perspective; the facts of our dependency do not change. It's just a point of view. It's all just a point of view, is it not? Or do we depend on a point of view that is more than just a point of view? That would be a dependency that binds.

Since our existence would appear to be our most essential and precious reality, let us consider that dependency. There is a great deal that we can do to try and perpetuate that existence for what we ridiculously call 'a long life', but in truth it always hangs by a thread. If we "choose out" existence as something we absolutely must have, then its every dependency becomes a matter of fear and anxiety. This is the dependency that binds. Not worried about your next meal or drink of water? You are fortunate; but how about cancer, car crashes, aneurysms, supernovas, and the inevitable eventuality of your death whatever you do?

But what if we do not "choose out" existence from the totality of apparent reality, but rather see life and death, existence and non-existence, as a single thread? "What would we then depend on?" Our continued existence would be as totally dependent as before, but our perspective would be transformed into one of freedom. We would be released from fear and enabled to joyfully ride the wave of every eventuality. Surely, this is what is meant when it says that the sage in the midst of fire cannot be burned. He burns alright, but it does not matter.

This is what it means to "hide the world in the world" where "nothing can be lost". When one is one with all things, including every eventuality, where can one go that one is not there? But she has ceased to exist! Yes, but she is also one with non-existence; nothing has been lost. "Thus I say the Consummate Person has no self . . ." concludes Zhuangzi.

I like to speak of total release into Mystery, which is just another metaphor for Zhuangzi’s non-dependence. This release is an exercise ever at hand. Letting oneself go, letting go of oneself, is an ever present frontier, always there to explore and to probe.

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

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