CIRCUMSTANCE AND OPPORTUNITY III

There is an argument for the existence of “God” that states that since we want “him” to exist, “he” must. Why else would we have been created thus? This reasoning is too specious and question-begging to require serious consideration. It presupposes what it “proves”. I mention it here only because it parallels the belief that, since we yearn for an ultimate purpose for ourselves and (consequentially) the cosmos, there must be such a purpose.


Zhuangzi’s admonition that we not “take our minds as our teacher” establishes what he sees as the frontline of the battle between authenticity and inauthenticity. Because we want to “understand” ourselves and the world does not mean that we can. We can certainly understand much about these, but we can never draw the sack closed; we can never reach the end that alone can justify the beginnings. What is the alternative? Living. Because we do in fact have minds that are intrinsically dualistic, as evinced in our belief that we have a life (rather than that we are a life), the movement back to more spontaneous living requires a mystical leap (where mystical simply means moving beyond the reasoning mind). I call this surrender in trust. Zhuangzi, more objectively, calls it “adding nothing to the process of life”. Thankfulness and unmediated joy arise from being the life that we are.


The yearning for an ultimate purpose, I would suggest, is a function of the reasoning mind and should likewise not be taken as our teacher. Life is its own “purpose”, and that has no obvious connection to a logically required ultimate purpose.


In many respects, Zhuangzi resembles a cold-blooded empiricist. Just the facts, ma’am. He is no airy-fairy romanticist or religionist. He arrives at his “free and carefree wandering” through yi ming, “making use of the light”. Ziporyn (self-admittedly “controversially”) translates “the Illumination of the Obvious”. His approach is phenomenological. He asks, How is life experienced, not, How can life be made to make sense?


This “battle” between authentic and inauthentic living needs, of course, to be understood in the light of a broader perspective that appreciates that sense in which they are both affirmable. The “petty-minded” dove and the vast-minded Peng are both simply living out their natures. Somewhere in here is the power to choose, but we are in no position to draw the lines too firmly. Our yearning for purpose is how we typically manifest, and although there is a better (happier) alternative, the more authentic view does not completely negate the lesser.  Living the lesser in the light of the higher is, in any case, perhaps the best we can do.

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