Friday, September 6, 2013

A Conversion Experience XI

Scott Bradley

The Consummate Person uses his mind like a mirror, rejecting nothing, welcoming nothing; responding but not storing. Thus he can handle all things without harm.
(7:14; Ziporyn)
"Responding but not storing" is a phrase full of dynamic potential, providing insight into how we typically respond to the world and how we might do so more effectively in both the nurture of inner peace and the sharing of the same.

We "respond". We actively interface with what happens. Stuff never stops happening. We are here in the world as fully active participants in it. Much of what happens is potentially harmful. He who would rescue another had best be sure that he won't himself require rescuing. His response must be responsible. Much rescuing is the equivalent of throwing a drowning man a rock; much 'helping' is just more of the same problem. Many a rescuer of a drowning man has himself been drown by that same man. Using one's mind like a mirror is an effective strategy for both to survive.

"Not storing" suggests that though we respond, we do not bring the world's problems onboard in such a way that they become our problems. Strife in Egypt is my problem, but what causes strife in Egypt need not be in me.

We store. We love to store. How else could we develop our sweet resentments, those mental suck-candies that we turn over and over in our minds so as to confirm our sense of a self offended, abused, or wronged. Even pain, especially pain, confirms that we are someone. And not only that, it confirms that we are someone special, someone better than those who have offended us. We store because it reifies the past, and we are our past; we are our history; we are our story.

Does a mind like a mirror suggest a life lived in the present? Zhuangzi's vision of the sage is of someone so free of her story that she can meet each successive event afresh, in response to what presently is, not to what once was. Just as the world is ever-transforming, so the sage freed of a fixed-identity is able to ever-respond to it on its own terms, in terms of "the present 'this'".

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

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