Friday, July 13, 2012

Loving What Is III

Scott Bradley

It is not always easy to continue these discussions in a follow-up post since, in breaking the train of the logical argument, it becomes clear in the space provided that that is precisely what it is — a lot of blabber. Blabber’s fine and probably necessary, if we realize it as such. So, as I continue, let me reaffirm what is for me a fundamental maxim: You don’t have to get it right to get it.

Since it is unlikely that anyone has, or ever will, “get it right”, this is encouraging. We create models by which to relate to the world in which we find ourselves, act accordingly, and just maybe this facilitates greater peace and freedom. That transformation, however, is a consequence not of having ‘understood’ Reality correctly, but of our having engaged ourselves in the process. If “opening one’s heart”, for example, facilitates greater peace, then it hardly matters that to which one opens one’s heart. Yet, there are clearly more efficacious models than others, and we are well-advised to discriminate among them. And having chosen one, we are further helped by refining it through contrast with others. All of this is just to reiterate that critiquing one model in an effort to better understand one’s own has nothing to do with arriving at Truth; nor is it a denial of the efficacy of the model critiqued.

In the previous post, I suggested that the Daoist model can be understood as relational. We understand all phenomena, all events, including all our own self-events, as Dao, and relate ourselves to them accordingly,. We “hand ourselves over to the unavoidable”, says Zhuangzi. We “love what is” as expressed in the experienced world. Since the phenomenal world is Dao, loving it is loving Dao; we relate to the Totality. I speak of the ecstasy, not intellection. But there is a problem here, as Zhuangzi would say.

There are two interrelated reasons why this seems a bit heretical to me. The first is that it is relational, and a relation requires two. The second is that there is no conceivable 'other' with which to have this relationship. Perhaps "incomparable satori" eliminates every possibility of a relationship with Reality; if you are It, and there is only It, there is not two, but One. But I honestly don't see this as the Daoist path; even if such an experience is understood as both possible and desirable, Daoism remains committed to a relational method of approaching that ideal. Daoism is about harmony and attunement, about the human in relation to the 'Heavenly'; to dissolve this apparent duality would be to allow "the Heavenly to win out over the human", which is ever much as injurious as allowing "the human to win out over the Heavenly". Daoism affirms and confirms the human experience through the experience of the view from Dao. Thus does this self remain relational with respect to Reality; and thus are we able to love it.

Is it possible to love the unknowable? If love is joyous openness, I do not see why not. Indeed, perhaps it is the openness of vastness which facilitates openness of the heart.

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

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