In the final analysis, wanting to be a sage is wanting to be someone. Yet, the hypothetical sage is no one. What are we to do? We can be this contradiction. We can be this mess. We can wander in precisely that place in which we find ourselves. We can depend on the realization of nothing—including this . . . and this . . . If we can’t wander in our not-wandering, then we are unlikely to ever wander—for wandering is non-dependence, even on wandering.

Why is a sage no one? Because everyone is no one. This, at any rate, is what Zhuangzi concludes when he “illuminates the obvious”, when he considers his life-experience phenomenologically, just as it manifests, without the imposition of essentialist myths. When Yan practiced “fasting of the mind” he discovered that he had “yet to begin to exist” (4). He saw with his inner qi. What is qi? Emptiness. Becoming. The “space” in which things happen. There’s nothing substantial there. He experienced no bolt from Above. No union with some Ultimate thing took place. He did not realize the Great Dao. He did not become “spiritual”. He was not “enlightened”. He didn’t find his “true purpose”. “I AM” was not substantiated. The Cosmos was not illuminated. No one was saved.

Zhuangzi might be full of shit (I certainly am), but to my thinking, we at least owe him the courtesy of allowing him to speak without casting him into the mold of his religious-minded interpreters, ancient or modern.

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