Thursday, December 12, 2013

Another Look at the Laozi XV

Scott Bradley

Know the honored by keeping to the disgraced, and you will be the valley of the world. Being the valley of the world, the power of sustainability will be whole, and you will return to the unhewn state.
(Laozi 28; Ziporyn)
There are frequent references to the "unhewn" throughout the literature of Daoism. One treatment at first focuses more on the hewn than that from which it is hewn. An artisan carves out a cup from a block of wood, and it is this that we admire for its beauty and utility. That from which it was carved, the unhewn, together with its shavings, is thrown over the back fence. It is "despised" as useless. But Daoism says, Not so fast!

Go ahead and cherish your cup, just as you cherished your first teddy bear (but where is it today and in what condition?) What we cherish most is that which best teaches us that nothing lasts, nothing is "sustainable". Returning to the unhewn state is what makes our sustainability "whole". Wholeness implies diversity. Unity implies the union of particulars. Returning to the unhewn state implies re-embedding one's hewn-ness in that from which it was hewn, the unhewn. Cherish life, but not to the exclusion of death. Cherish reason, purpose and meaning, but not to the exclusion of their lack. Cherish the carved cup, but not to the exclusion of the totality from which it was hewn.

In other words, "hide the world in the world where nothing can ever be lost." The carved cup was hewn from the unhewn, but the true unhewn was never hewn and the cup was never other than itself unhewn. Reality cannot be broken. The Totality cannot be sundered. The cup will crack; our life will fail; but this great Happening happens on.

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

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