CIRCUMSTANCE AND OPPORTUNITY XI

In the previous series I made reference to the proto-Daoist philosopher Song Xing whom Zhuangzi lauds for his distinction between the inner and the outer, between how others behave toward us and how we behave toward ourselves. He is known for declaring that “to be insulted is not a disgrace”. In other words, we need not be offended by offensive behavior directed our way. We need not be dependent on externals.


This behavior is something that has happened; it is now an unavoidable circumstance. However the various degrees of causation and culpability might be assigned, we are now in a position to “hand it all over to the unavoidable so as to nourish what is central within” us. We are in a position to take this unfortunate circumstance as an opportunity to do the work of self-cultivation.


This series arose from my recent ongoing experience with the IRS. I will spare you the details except to say that is manifests as a Kafkaesque tyranny oblivious to the rule of law. I get angry; and when I do, I try to say, “thanks for this opportunity.” I try to do this with lots of things directed my way that I take to be harmful and unjust. I mention this, not to show myself as sagacious, but quite the opposite, as someone with lots of work to do.


Zhuangzi quotes Song Xing as part of his argument for depending on nothing so as to wander free and easy through life. Nothing can harm you when you depend on nothing. We fear no loss when we have nothing to lose. These are hard sayings, and require a meditative investment to be appreciated. Appreciating them is getting the whole of Zhuangzi’s vision. Might I suggest you try them, if only for the understanding? You need not fear the loss of your fears—they’ll still be there when you get back.


The IRS would unjustly take a chunk of my retirement with the prospect of my eventually being penniless. So what? Apart from this all being a mere hypothetical circumstance (I find I worry a lot about what in fact never happens), nothing can harm me when everything is an opportunity for soaring.


Fortunately, walking two roads allows me to still fight the bastards.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *