Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Dishonesty II

Scott Bradley

I have suggested that we affirm our inherent dishonesty. I often try to do this in these posts; I state that despite my frequent preaching, I am not an embodiment of that of which I preach. Sometimes I play the guru, but I am no guru. Should I therefore just shut up? Perhaps; but if I should, then so, to my thinking, should everyone else. This is because I very much doubt there are now or ever has been any true sages.

Some will take exception to this blanket statement and perhaps point to persons they believe to be sages or who were sages. I won't argue except to say that for all practical purposes, the existence or non-existence of sages actually makes little difference at all to the walking of my own chosen path. This is because the belief in fully realized sages leads to the enshrinement of some one path and the creation of a definitive, purpose-driven goal. Such a goal, even if realized by a minute few, is essentially a fantasy for the many who nonetheless expend their life energy in its vain pursuit. And this, I would suggest, is precisely what philosophical Daoism seeks to overturn.

Philosophical Daoism, as I understand it, is an invitation to personal existential engagement with the obvious givens of both our collective experience and those which are unique to each individual. There are, then, as many daos as there are pairs of feet to walk them.

As for the preaching, it is an unfortunate aspect of the internet that it enables an anonymity conducive to the creation of fabricated personas — masks of dishonesty. I jokingly call my closest friends who read these posts my gurus, for they do not fail to quote me when my behavior proves contrary to what I preach, which is nearly always.

The truth is that I could never pull off the preacher/guru thing, not only because my behavior would constantly betray my hypocrisy, but also because I simply do not have the capacity for deceit that doing so almost certainly entails. Knowing I'm full of it, I could not with full conviction and a serious continence hold forth in dishonesty. (I do not say this as if pointing to a virtue, but rather to what most would consider a weakness — self-doubt.) We are all familiar with the sincere and ardent preachers of righteousness who are simultaneously fucking the choir. How are they able to do this if not by virtue of some form of mental illness, some form of sociopathy? What's more important to this discussion, however, is not these extremes but the fact that most likely every preacher/guru is a purveyor of dishonesty; there is always a disjunction between what is said and reality. Believe them if you wish; I cannot.

So, again I say, let’s affirm our seemingly unavoidable propensity to dishonesty. The moment we open our mouths in the pronouncement of ‘fact’, and especially ‘spiritual’ fact, we are engaging in some form of deceit. And again I say that there is a sense in which Zhuangzi’s project was simply to make us aware of this fact.

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

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