I WANT TO BE A SAGE VIII

This series is supposed to be overtly about me, yet in having fallen into the familiar groove of Zhuangzi’s analysis of dependence, it has sometimes become only covertly so. I somewhat ashamedly suggested early on, however, that this must of necessity be about me whether acknowledged or not. Such is the nature of being human. Even the astrophysicist in the spin of her theories is speaking about herself. Pure objectivity is a myth. This, in any case, is what Zhuangzi suggests when he says that every point of view is indeed from a specific point, and that there are as many points as there are people viewing from them.


Kierkegaard suggested that “truth is subjectivity” which I take to mean that, despite the admittedly objective side of a statement of the truth of things, it necessarily requires a subjective commitment to it. It is not truth until someone says it is. (“Things are ‘so’ because someone says they are ‘so’”, as Zhuangzi puts it.) One must cast one’s lot into the truthfulness of a truth. But this “leap” is not entirely logically justifiable—in the end, nothing is entirely “provable”. Kierkegaard was most concerned with Christianity, of course. In his native Denmark (part of “Christendom”) everyone was a “Christian”; when everyone is a Christian, he averred, no one is a Christian. Being a Christian involves a personal existential leap of faith into the absurdity of taking something as absolutely True—not being part of a herd. It’s not God becoming a man (an idea) that is so absurd as to require a leap, but that that guy over there shitting behind a bush is that man (a fact).


Zhuangzi, I would suggest, also understands that truth is subjectivity, but directs his leap in an altogether different and, I think, more authentic direction. He leaps into the human life-experience itself which, from the point of view of reason, is an absurdity. Ziporyn’s rendering of Zhuangzi puts it succinctly: “Thus, the Radiance of Drift and Doubt is the sage’s only map”. The sage leaps into the “illuminated obvious” of the human experience and lives and wanders in unknowing and uncertainty. She embraces her natural adriftedness and playfully drifts without leaping into any particular absurdity at all.


Life is only absurd to the rationalist, of course—it doesn’t make sense. This is ironic in that it is often the supposedly non-rationalist existentialists who call life absurd—it doesn’t meet their rational expectations. Life is not an absurdity, but a surd—it does not resolve to logic. Zhuangzi suggests that we live life as it is, not as we would prefer it to be.

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