Saturday, February 4, 2012

Imagine II

Scott Bradley

Imagine having nothing to defend.

Finished already? Didn't even try?

For some time I have felt the need for some kind of conceptual framework by which to help direct this project of self-cultivation and I finally formulated one in a recent post: understand, imagine, respond.

There is nothing new in this, either in the wide-world of thought or in my own stumbling way. Only I have simply articulated it for myself. Nor is there anything particularly profound here; it is really quite basic, simple, natural.

We have a mental image of sagacity, of the kind of person we wish to be. I presume to say so, and if you do not have either the image or the goal, I do not speak to you. I further presume that we share a similar vision of how that sagacity might be; it is the sagacity of Taoists and Confucians. This image is our understanding in a nutshell.

Yet it is not, as we well know, enough to understand it in this sense. We wish to be it. By imagining it as true in us, we begin to experience it as what we are. This is an imagining which might be described as a flight of fantasy. And yet, it becomes experiential. It is Zhuangzi's "far and unfettered wandering" and the Confucian realization of "Heaven and Earth and I are one body." It is mystical experience. And it is always here, ready to hand, no big deal.

Yet we also know that it is still not thus complete in us; it is something which needs to be realized in the crucible of practical life, in relation to others and events. It is in our response to these by which this understanding and inner experience is fully realized in us. I use 'response', though I might have said 'engagement'. I prefer the former as being more suggestive of the Taoist vision.

Zhuangzi understood the essential equality of all things. He imagined the ramifications of this in his inner life, experienced the vastness and the freedom. Then he affirmed all things by "following along with the rightness of their present 'this'". He closed the loop. Theoretically.

These three aspects are an organic whole. One does not truly precede another. Each informs, affirms and confirms the others.

I began this post with an invitation to imagine. Needless to say, you need not accept. Once again I have only really spoken to and encouraged myself by way of a ‘subjective soliloquy’. I can do no more.

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

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