Friday, October 18, 2013

When the Shoe Fits V

Scott Bradley

I thought I'd finished with this series, but I've stumbled upon a reference to the passage under consideration in Ziporyn's Ironies of Oneness and Difference and it has helped to clarify a problem that arises here and, indeed, throughout this literature, namely is this 'perfected' state of "having the comfort of forgetting even comfort" possible, or even desirable. It may not be either. In this case, it would serve as a goal, known to be unattainable, but nonetheless efficacious in its pursuit. And this is essentially how I personally approach the vision of Zhuangzi. The envisioned goal is a chimera if we take it for some kind of final state to be realized. Rather, at best we can only and always simply approximate that vision. It is a path that ends only in death.

To be so comfortable in oneself as to forget that one is comfortable suggests an end to all struggle, but in reality existence seems to very much consist in struggle. Perhaps it is the struggle that calls forth and makes the path possible. The end of struggle would mean the end of the path, and a life without a path sounds more like death. Our pleasure comes not in the elimination of struggle, but in making the struggle a pleasure. And this points again to the playful character that typifies this particular approach to life. The point is to laugh now, not later.

I cannot presume to correctly represent Ziporyn's arguments and thus will only make use of them as best I can. In his inquiry into the nature of "coherence" he observes that "Once all the parts cohere into a single something, readable as one, this means that it has been absorbed as a single unit into something else. The search for ever more coherence is, in other words, inherent, and thus ceaseless. Each coherence cries out for further context" (p.85). Within the human experience, therefore, the idea of a mind at complete rest is not realizable. And, if our goal is to realize the full potential of our humanity, neither is it desirable.

Ziporyn also quotes from Qian Mu's Pendulum metaphor in this context: "Struggle must search for peace, and peace must resist struggle (that is, must not be afraid of struggle). So peace which is close to struggle and struggle that is close to peace are both capable of continuing, and both can be called good. But struggle that is far removed from peace and peace that is far removed from struggle are both far removed from the center . . ." (p. 79)

In the end, when all the philosophizing is done, we are left with the real world and that is perpetual struggle. Best to enjoy it in the approximation of peace.

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

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