We have seen that Zhuangzi fully appreciates the distinctly human faculties of reason and language while also appreciating their limitations. These limitations are themselves positively affirmed as an invitation to a pre- and post-cognitive experience of our being in the world. Limitations are, in fact, the necessary precondition to a sense of limitlessness and freedom. Zhuangzi uses the metaphor of “soaring” to describe this unbounded sense of freedom, and we are only able to accomplish this because air is a source of resistance. We “chariot upon whatever seems true of the cosmos and everything and anything that happens” (1:11). The daily stuff of living with all its demands is the very occasion for our soaring.


Why would we want to soar? Because we experience ourselves as a lack, an emptiness that reason cannot fill. Fullness, freedom, makes use of emptiness, the “useless”. Here again we see that philosophical Daoism negates nothing of the human experience, but rather embraces it all. Not only is what we perceive as useless essential to the useful, but the usefulness of the useless is in direct proportion to the degree of its uselessness. The greater the obstacle, the greater is our possible soaring.

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