Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Waylessness I

Scott Bradley

The Ultimate Way is wayless. But to say so is not wayless. To say so is to exclude ways that are wayful, and thus to be a way. Is there an Ultimate Way? If there is Genuine Knowledge, Zhuangzi opines, then it would only be accessible to a Genuine human being. But has there ever been such a one? Zhuangzi suggests a hypothetical and remote past when perhaps there was, but one is still left with the impression that he does not really think so. In the end, Zhuangzi seems to suggest a way of liberation that accepts that there is no such thing. His vision is of a freedom that ensues from abandoning all hope of being free. His way is an accommodation to the utter irresolvability of the precarious and attenuated reality of human existence. It is a philosophy of cope; incomplete; open-ended; tentative; approximating.

Dao is dao-less in that Dao is that awareness that makes no distinctions. This Dao of which I speak is a theoretical state of mind, not a metaphysical something. Is such an awareness possible? Only the "Genuine human being" could know; and I am not he.

Dao is also dao-ful. Waylessness embraces all things, all daos. We approximate waylessness when we espouse a way that similarly affirms all other ways. This is a step removed from true waylessness, which espouses no way, but it may be the most we can hope to realize.

Here, I would like to re-introduce 'a man from Song' who was a master of the zither, but when he realized that this mastery excluded mastery of the lute, fell into deep melancholy and broke apart his zither. His pursuit of waylessness resulted in having neither a way nor waylessness. He is like the lad who went to Hadan to learn their special walk, but in the process failed to learn theirs and forgot his own so that he had to crawl home. Every human way must of necessity in some respects exclude other ways. A way that declares the equality of all ways negates those ways that declare otherwise. And here, I would like to re-introduce the guitar player who has said no to the drums, but not to the drummer. Together they make music. He accepted the excluding limitations of his way, yet was still able to affirm other ways. Let us not confuse approximation with a cowardly accommodation. Ansel Adams was a master of ‘black and white’ photography precisely because he learned to appreciate the infinite shades of grey.

Then there are daos which declare themselves Dao and judge other daos as not-Dao. Recognizing these as the reigning norm in the battle of ways, Zhuangzi suggested a dao more approximate to a Dao which does not judge, a dao which affirms other daos yet admits that it is itself only an approximating dao, and thus one that also excludes. Yet, though it excludes, it also affirms; for it affirms that daos that declare themselves Dao are not not-Dao, but also Dao.

You can check out Scott's writings on Zhuangzi here.

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