I WANT TO BE A SAGE I

There are innumerable personal failings that I could share with the reader, but none as illuminating or seminal as this: I want to be a sage.


For the most part I try to avoid being overly personal in these posts; they are not meant to be about me, but about the applicability of the philosophy of Zhuangzi to life today. That applicability, however, does not and cannot come disembodied from a life experience, and the only one I know is my own. Alas, this entire project is about me. On the one hand, it grieves me to have to say so; on the other, I realize that there is no other option and that any pretense of dis-interested objectivity in anything amounts to an act of bad faith—to lie to oneself and to others. Zhuangzi’s project was no different. We have this in common—we are both human. He too was simply trying to cope with his experience and, I believe, knew this to be the case. That critical self-awareness is the hinge upon which his philosophy can be said to turn.


For us, Daoism is an entirely psychological project. It has nothing to do with a supposed extra-mundane Reality except as a Lack. We feel that it is necessary, yet can only feel it as a lack. And so too do we experience ourselves as a lack; something is missing, and it’s the most important thing of all. Let the coping begin.


This being a psychological project, there is much to discover in self-inquiry. There is no other place to begin—or to end. I have mentioned my desire to be a sage as one point of entry into such an inquiry. Exploring this will take more than one post, so, in the interest of suggesting at least a modicum of supposed sagacity (because I want to be a sage), let me begin by saying that this does not mean that I want to be a guru surrounded by adoring disciples. This inquiry will be an exploration of ever-deeper and more subtle motivations, and the desire to be such a guru is on the peripheral first ring, and the coarsest of possible motivations. It is not one I generally entertain. I’d rather be a rock star. This has the advantage of indulging in a self-reifying fantasy without the hypocrisy.

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