ZHUANGZI WAS A BULL-SHIT ARTIST

If the traditional paragons of virtuosity were great successes, says Zhuangzi, then so is he and everyone else. They were, and so is he and so are we. They were not, and neither is he and neither are we. Whenever we take something as “fully formed” (cheng), as complete and finished, then we have left something out, and that is missing the most important thing of all. What is it? The sage holds it in her embrace and does not say, answers Zhuangzi. But let us be poor disciples and say: What is left out is success if we think anything a failure, and failure if we think anything a success. This understanding is what the sage embraces and what cannot be said. For to say it, is to “fully form” it and leave out the most important something once again.

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No one has lived a fuller life than a dead infant, and the long-lived Pengzu died too young. Everything is complete and perfect. Everything is a total mess. Everything is empty. Everything is full.

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Zhuangzi was a great Master. Zhuangzi was a bull-shit artist just like me.

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We often hear and read of great Zen or Daoist masters, but seldom of great Zen and Daoist bull-shit artists. Why? Because we hunger for the “fully formed”; we are chronically inclined to the comfort of the religious mind. We want the great Answer, the True Way, the Sure Anchor. We want to be other than human, and if someone else has managed it, then perhaps so can we. Indeed, they have already managed it for us.

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Words must choose a side; they must make a statement. When all the world chooses the “fully formed”, we would do best to speak of adriftedness and doubt. When the human mind defaults to the belief that any of these bull-shit artists were great “masters”, we would do best to affirm the former. Zhuangzi was no different than you or I. He had a vision of a happier way to live his existential dangle and he found some joy in attempting to realize it and in sharing it. Because he knew this, because he embraced this in his heart, he was a great master. He was a great master because he knew there is no such thing, or rather, that there is no one who is not. Or both. Or neither.

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