ZHUANGZI ON THE US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS VI

Blog:  So you “feel the Bern” and hope that he’ll become president because he seems most likely to work for our collective flourishing—but you also say everything will remain a mess in any case. Can you explain why it’s worth caring if nothing much is likely to change in any event?

Zhuangzi:  As I think you’ve gathered, I like to come at things from two directions at once. The first and most important argument I’d make for caring even when caring is unlikely to make much difference is that no argument is necessary. I care because caring is what I naturally do; it requires no argument or justification. Why should being what we are require justification? Why would we want to mediate between ourselves and our living? That’s taking your logical mind as your teacher. Confucius and Mencius got it right in pointing out that compassion is innate in human beings—only they then wanted to go about applying it like some kind of absolute principle—insisting that people have compassion.

The second argument mediates. Reality as we experience it is, as you say, a Great Mess; what I call endless transformation you call a mess, but it amounts to the same thing though your “mess” puts it more in the context of the human yearning for it to be otherwise. Things are ceaselessly changing—not evolving toward some final, perfect Omega Point—but dying, disappearing, returning to chaos. There is no self-evident final purpose for anything. So, when we care and work for change we are informed by this. It doesn’t require a Utopian vision to work for incremental change. If we require a certain outcome, our hope will lead us into despair and cynicism. If we acknowledge the inherent messiness of all things, our hope can be a kind of not-hope, a hope that endures whatever transpires because it is a hope that depends on no particular outcome, a hope that has identified itself with the Great Mess.

B:  We’re reminded of your “no one has a fuller life than a dead child”. When a child is sick, we do all we can to heal her, even though she will eventually die in any case. The fullness of life whatever its duration does not deter us from caring to extend it.

Z:  That’s it! That’s walking two roads at once!

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