Sunday, March 24, 2013

Name I

Scott Bradley

Name, in Daoist thought, refers to a specific expression of identity. Identity is not in itself problematical; it is an attribute of the individuation of things, and this is a given which, even when transcended in an experience of the oneness of things, remains affirmed and appreciated. We honor the universal root when we affirm the individual flower.

The name that Daoism finds problematical is that which might be described as image-dependence. It is a flight from things as they are toward things as we wish them to be. Our energies are directed toward establishing a self-image with which we can be comfortable. We can affirm ourselves because we are thus. But since this is an affirmation founded on an image, a mental construct, a fantasy, it is highly vulnerable. It requires defending. We defend it against our own self-awareness through denial and self-deceit. We defend it against others by either pro-actively attempting to nurture their agreement (fame) or by closing ourselves off from their input, dismissing them. Wherever there is image-dependence, there is defensiveness.

We are not the image we think or wish ourselves to be. We are who we are. But the solution to image-dependence is not to formulate a better understanding of who we are; this would be to simply reformulate another image. The goal of Daoism is to transcend the need for any self-image at all; it is to be free of dependence on anything.

It might be argued that we are dependent in every way. We are. But to release into this, to be our utter contingency, is to be dependent no more. Dependency requires that we be something other than that upon which we depend. Life depends on many things, but when it does not depend on living, its dependency is no longer experienced as such.

The wish to ‘be someone’ is both an unintentional acknowledgment and an intentioned denial that we are no one. Daoism would have us realize the joy of being no one.

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

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