Friday, March 30, 2012

Today I Mourn

Scott Bradley

Yesterday I sent Trey two posts speaking to what amounts to the excommunication of one of our contributors. This term "excommunication" is a painful one to use with reference to the maintenance of the integrity this blog; it would seem to stand for exactly the opposite of what we hold dearest—acceptance and inclusion. Yet, I think it was necessary.

Such is life. Messy.

There is a passage in the Daodejing which tells us that a victorious army should mourn. The battle might have been necessary, because human beings daily seek to pillage one another, but that very necessity is the cause of our grief. To rejoice at victory is the negation of victory. The only true victory is that which humbles and shames us for our collective insanity.

This is really no different than argumentation and debate. There can be no winner unless all the participants are winners. How could this be possible? Our former contributor spoke of the value of things which go against the grain; things which challenge our most cherished inclinations. Here is just such a thing. Indeed, here we discover a nest of impulses that expose just what it is to be an insular and petty self. Daoism, whatever else it may be, is a philosophy which proposes a way of transcending this pettiness.

There is a story in the Zhuangzi in which a sage places two zithers in different rooms and tunes one string dissonant from the others, but when he plucks it, all the other strings resonate in harmony with it. "It was just a sound like all the rest," it concludes, "and yet it functioned as the lord of all tones." (Chap. 24; Ziporyn) It is this "lord of all tones" which we wish to embody. Yet it is “a sound like all the rest”. It is not a truth transcendent of others. It is not the "right view" which negates the right and wrong views of others. It is just another point of view. But it is an inclusive one. And it is one which is always self-critiquing and self-negating; ever it empties itself of the belief that it is other than just another point of view.

A debate in which everyone is a winner would be one in which opinions were understood to be of merely relative importance. What would be of greater importance? Might it not be an acknowledgement of that sacred uniqueness of each individual which transcends all judgment? Where is our foundation? Is not in a vastness without limits and boundaries, where all is included and nothing is lost? This is an idea, but it is about being transcendent of ideas.

Practically speaking, a debate in which all were winners would be one in which every idea was intended to assist and nurture the growth of every other idea. Its foundation would be one of inclusion, rather than conflict. It would be one whose appeal would be to mutual respect, not to the triumph of objective truth.

In as much as I have failed of this, I mourn. In that we have collectively failed of this, I mourn.

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

1 comment:

  1. As one of the so-called "scribes" here, I just want to go on record to say that I am neither mourning nor celebrating. Just observing.


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