ZHUANGZI ON THE US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS IX

Blog:  Can we ask you about an apparent discrepancy between what you just said about there being no such thing as “perfected human beings” and your description of just such persons in your writings?

Zhuangzi:  Yes you can. Can you answer your own question?

B:  You’re giving us a vision of an ideal that is not realizable but that can serve as an inspiration for approximating what can be realized?

Z:  Exactly! But people want things to be black and white—shades of grey remind us that we are clueless, and cluelessness reminds us that we are irremediably adrift without any hope of a secure mooring. So we default to religious-mindedness. We take things literally so there’s something “to believe in”.

B:  Have you ever thought that maybe you shouldn’t have left things so ambiguous in that case?

Z:  Not at all! What I just said can also provide fodder for religious-mindedness. Nothing we say is immune to religious-mindedness. Don’t you catch yourself turning your understanding of my philosophy into a similar literalism?

B:  We do. It’s like there’s a need for continual self-effacement, of negating what we think we know. That’s what’s meant by “spill-over goblet words”—words that self-empty when they’ve made their point, right?

Z:  You got it. It’s a perpetual dialectic or rising above and beyond what we take as “true”. Soaring! Wandering! It’s a dialectic that’s going nowhere. The dialecticism of Hegel and Marx are both teleological processes—they’re going somewhere. They’re religiously minded.

B:  So, back to Bernie’s slogan, “A Future to Believe In”,—it’s a bit like your Sage, an ideal to inspire us, but not to take literally, as if an ideal will be accomplished.

Z:  Right. We’re not religiously attached to any single possible future so we can work for a better future without dependence on a particular idea of “success”.

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