Thursday, December 6, 2012

Transparently Grounded

Scott Bradley

Carr and Ivanhoe (The Sense of Antirationalism) make passing reference to Kierkegaard's concept of the ultimate human good: that one should be "transparently grounded in the power that posits it". Though his conception of what that "power" "is" is very different from the Daoist perspective, the outcome of his vision is nonetheless in many ways remarkably similar to that of Daoism. It is instructive in itself that two radically different starting points can arrive at such a similar psychological experience.

Admittedly, it might be argued that these words meant something very different to Kierkegaard than they mean to philosophical Daoism, but I think if we just let the words speak for themselves they reveal something so fundamental as to be beyond their differences.

Both visions understand the importance of surrendering into, and thus being identified with, the Totality. The identification is seen in the "transparency". Daoism speaks of the Great Transparency, Dao understood as that in which all things are equal and participate equally in Reality. In the final analysis, this is the Daoist goal, to hide oneself in the Totality where nothing is lost. For this to happen, however, one must realize the "transparency" which admits no fixed and concrete self-identity. This is the price of admission, but since it is giving up what one never truly had in the first place, an illusion which is the source of every experience of disharmony, it is really just free. Still, to release our hold on this illusion would seem to be the hardest thing of all.

The idea of "being grounded" is not one that sits well with Daoism because it would seem to imply a thing to ground and a something into which to be grounded, neither of which is assumed to be the case. Nevertheless, "far and unfettered wandering" is an experience had by 'someone', on the one hand, and that happens 'somewhere', even if that be "the vast wilds of open nowhere", on the other. To the extent that one can be "grounded" in the ever-transforming and the never-to-be-known, Daoism invites us to experience just that.

In the end, despite being the hardest thing to do, to be transparently grounded in the vastness is the simplest solution to the human experience of suffering. Its simplicity consists in its already being the fact of the case. It is neither earned nor attained; it is. All one need do to experience it is to release into it.

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

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