Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Ziporyn on Zhuangzi V: At Ease As the Ever-Changing

Scott Bradley


We are exploring the opening fable of the Zhuangzi, the flight of Peng, where we find three of Zhuangzi's major themes (transformation, non-dependence, and perspectival relativism) metaphorically, and thus simply, introduced.

All is transformation; the only experienced constant is change. Peng is herself representative of transformation — now a fish, now a bird, soon to return to the Oblivion from which she arose.

She makes the flight of existence in complete dependence on the seasonal monsoon winds, mounting to such an incredible height that 'below' is as "blue" as the blue 'above'. (Is it really blue, Zhuangzi asks, or is it a trick of infinite distance? We do not know. It does not matter. We might also ask if there is any more an above or a below, though that doesn't matter either.) Though utterly dependent on the conditions of existence, being herself thoroughly released into the transformation of all things, making her flight in full awareness of her origins in Oblivion and her return to the same, she "rides atop the six atmospheric breaths", free to "wander without halt". As part of the transforming flow itself, she depends on nothing, though completely dependent on whatever happens. Hers is the inner non-dependence that frees her to wander at ease as the ever-changing in the ever-changing.

But there are those of "small consciousness", those locked within their narrow view — the dove, the quail and the cicada — and they scoff at such freedom. They know the ultimate in flying — theirs. Flights of non-dependence are folly; it is enough to live as they do, finding purpose in making it to the next terrestrial bush or tree.

Peng, were she able to see them through the blue, would smile and bless them, knowing that every perspective, every expression, is equalized in the oneness of the ever-transforming.

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

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