Thursday, February 6, 2014

Ziporyn on Yin-Yang VII: Is Broken the Norm?

Scott Bradley

Following Ziporyn, I have described a Yin line as "broken" and a Yang line as "unbroken". Does this show a bias toward Yin? From a purely semantic standpoint, I think it does. "Broken" is the positive norm; "unbroken" is derivative. This is, no doubt, coincidental to our language; we could probably use other words that reverse the bias (contiguous/incontiguous?). Still, I think this does direct us to a realization of the priority of Yin, the broken.

Something from Chen Jen comes to mind: "Heal the sick, though they shall surely die in the end; fix the broken, though it shall surely be broken again." And, we might add, they will stay that way. Looking at the material history of humanity, we see in its detritus how the broken is the quantitative norm, just as death is the qualitative norm.

I made mention in an earlier post of Ziporyn's apparent (for I do not recall him having addressed this) bias toward the ironic when he frames his discussion by speaking of non-ironic coherence in relation to ironic coherence (knowable harmony versus unknowable harmony) in his Ironies of Oneness and Difference. Even that coherence which pre-dates the ironic tradition of Laozi and Zhuangzi is described, anachronistically, as non-ironic. Again, this may be an accident of language, but I suggested then that it points to what seems an unavoidable fact — Yin rules.

Not only does shit happen, but in the final analysis, only shit happens. But we needn't put this in such negative terms. We might alternatively say that everything returns to the Source. That "Source", however, is utterly unknowable and offers no guarantees regarding the fulfillment of our aspirations. This is the "Obvious"; how we choose to respond is what all this blabber is about.

Returning to the words of Chen Jen, it should not be overlooked that he exhorts us to "heal the sick" and "fix the broken" despite seemingly negative ultimate outcomes. This is the assertion of Yang, the positive fulfillment of the life experience. Were Yin to negate Yang, this would be to fall into despair, the ultimate disharmony. Without Yang there is no Yin; without Yin there is no Yang; our desires define Yin. The point is to do our Yang-ing in the context of the priority on Yin, and that is making the best of what on the surface (let's face it) appears to be other than we would prefer things to be.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

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