Thursday, September 19, 2013

Uneven Discourses III

Scott Bradley

In making use of Zhuangzi's philosophy as I understand it, it might be helpful to see it as a raw resource; let's call it a forest. My own history requires me to enter and take from that forest the timber (only fallen trees, of course!) necessary to build that home which best fits my needs. Others have other histories and other needs and consequentially build other structures according to their own needs. The forest offers no blueprint, only the resources by which to realize our own. Like the woodworker who, after preparing his own heart, enters the forest in search of his bell-stand without intention to impose it on a tree, but only selects that tree in which he sees the bell-stand already manifest, "matching the Heavenly [in himself] with the Heavenly [in the tree]" (19), so might we discover in Zhuangzi (or any other resource) that which resonates with our own unique reality.

Yet, this requires reading Zhuangzi in a certain way. That way, however, is precisely what allows each one to have a contrary view. All views are not 'right' in the sense of being 'correct', but all views are so in the sense of being affirmable, since it is not 'truth' that we privilege, but individual expression. Things are right, "self-so", simply because they are. Can't go there? No "understanding consciousness" can. Zhuangzi makes a reasoned case for this point of view, but he does not think that reason can take us there. He takes us to the precipice, but he cannot make us jump.

Taking another tack, I am willing to resign the field to readings of Zhuangzi in disagreement with my own. My own reading suggests I do just that. I have no desire to be a follower of Zhuangzi, in any case. I have "selected out my own", and as I have previously said, "Thanks for the leg-up Zhuangzi, I can take it from here."

Like Socrates, Zhuangzi's goal was never to provide answers, but rather to stimulate our questioning. He considers many questions, weighs alternative answers, questions these, and finally just leaves them all unanswered with the suggestion that they are in fact unanswerable. After all, the whole point is to become "unfixed", and it is thinking we know or can know the answers that fixes us in the first place.

You can check out Ta-Wan's other musings here.

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