ZHUANGZI ON THE US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS I

In an effort to realize a bit of Zhuangzian peace and freedom I swore I wouldn’t care overmuch about the presidential elections this year. Not surprisingly, given the intensity of my political sentiments, this has not been an especially successful resolution. So, I thought I’d interview Zhuangzi to see if he could perhaps give me a bit of transcendent relief.

Blog: Zhuangzi, thank you so much for consenting to be interviewed regarding the upcoming US presidential elections. Let me cut to the chase and ask if you are going to vote, and if so, for whom?

Zhuangzi: Of course I’m going to vote! Maybe we can better arrange the Mess—who knows? As for whom, I’m feeling the Bern!

B: But we’ve been told that you’re a recluse who disdains all political involvement. Doesn’t voting and having some hope for positive change contradict that?

Z: Sorry for having to say so, but you’ve been taught a lot of rubbish about me. Since the day they put my jottings in that book with all those other opinions, my opinions have been smooshed together with them. They’ve made me a “Daoist”—whatever that is.

B: So, that story about your preferring to drag your tail in the mud than to be prime minister . . . ?

Z: All made up! None of these people know anything about me. But it’s a great story, don’t you think? There’s some good stuff in it. If people could just stop taking things so literally they could find it without turning it into ridiculously fixed and dogmatic maxims. That’s the whole point of telling stories, isn’t it? Stories are about life, and life can never be reduced to unchanging “principles”. In any case, who am I to complain about people making up stories about me! (Laughter) Hell, I’ve helped launch a few good legendary characters myself. Laozi . . . Liezi . . . people just can’t take a joke. Why they think believing stuff is better than having a good laugh completely escapes me. Well, not really . . . I understand their need for “truth” . . . I just think it’s unfortunate since it only makes their existential dangle hurt all the more.

B: Okay, so you’re not a recluse and don’t advocate withdrawing from the world . . . So, you believe in doing things in the political realm, voting, supporting one candidate as better than others . . . we’re sorry, this all seems to turn what we’ve learned of Daoism on its head. What are we missing?

Z: Two roads.

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