ON BEING SELF-SO (ZIRAN) IV

There are two principal ways in which Zhuangzi suggests that reality presents as self-so (spontaneously arising)—cosmologically and existentially. Dao and self are both noticeable for their absence. They are present only through their absence. All we can say of the cosmos and ourselves is that they appear to happen. We can discover no cause, nor any rhyme or reason for their happening. Stuff just happens. Existence seems to have spontaneously arisen without any substantive Ground of Being anchoring it to Meaning.


Ziqi explains the loss his “me” through the analogy of the “piping of Heaven”: “It gusts through all the ten thousand differences, allowing each to go its own way. But since each one selects out its own [way], what identity can there be for their rouser” (2:5; Ziporyn)? “Dao does nothing, yet nothing is left undone”. The absence of an identifiable cause for things to have arisen is echoed in our inability to discover a substantive self in ourselves. There’s no one home. True self is thus no-self, which is to say, it is the realization by one’s self that it has no reified “soul”. It “is” only as an “is not”. It is a something that is also a nothing. Losing one’s “me” is this realization. The loss of one’s “me” as that which makes us “other” to ourselves and to all “other selves” is, ironically, precisely what allows us a sense of oneness with all things. We’re all in this together—one big Happening.


Our most immediate experience of being self-so is this experience of being ungrounded. Rather than asking why we are here, a reason the “understanding consciousness” requires to its own disquiet, realizing ourselves as self-so, as spontaneously arising, sets the stage for living as such—spontaneously.

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