Saturday, February 8, 2014

Zipoyrn on Yin-Yang IX: The Tranquility of Turmoil

Scott Bradley


What kills the living does not die. What gives birth to all the living is not born. It is something that sends all beings off and welcomes all beings in, destroys all and completes all. Its name is the Tranquility of Turmoil. This Tranquility of Turmoil! It is what reaches completion only through its turmoil.
(Zhuangzi 6:38; Ziporyn)
In his discussion of Yin-Yang, Ziporyn speaks to the simultaneity of their complementarity and their conflict. They oppose each other, yet they do not exist apart from or without each other. Their "turmoil" is also a "tranquility".

The price of life is death. Is the price of death life? Only if we step back from concerns for our own identity and take a more abstracted view are we generally able to acknowledge that life arises out of and requires death. We glibly speak of the "cycle of life" out there in the forest, but we find it hard to apply it to ourselves.

It is so obvious in the forest. In the northwest of the American continent one might see the peculiar phenomenon of many ancient trees all in a neat row. Looking further, one might discover a "mother tree", a dead and fallen tree with numerous seedling trees taking root all along her decomposing trunk, the answer to this mystery. Without her death there would be fewer trees.

In many ways philosophical Daoism is all about taking a higher view. That view which we are able to consider and affirm when observing the life-death-life-death cycle of the forest is understood to apply to all things, ourselves included.

Completion through Tranquility and Turmoil is not the final word on Reality, any more than is Yin-Yang; the view from Dao does not consist of an explanation of the ultimate, but is rather open-ended, and ultimately empty. Looking down (as it were), we observe existence as a single coherence and affirm it in its totality. Looking up and out (as it were), we open into what can only be Mystery. Recognizing that life and death form a single string is a simple acknowledgement of the way things manifest and says nothing about ultimate Reality. Yet, it is in affirming Mystery, entrusting ourselves to it, including it in our final paradigm of coherence, that we are enabled to affirm the givens of our existence.

The larger view from Dao informs our everyday living. Every trouble, every conflict, all turmoil, is an occasion to realize more tranquility. Tranquility arises, not from the attempted abolition of conflict, but from understanding its necessity as part of life, adding it to the string (as it were), and thereby embracing it. Thus, “every enslavement is also an ennobling”. (2:41)

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

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