IDOLATRY II

“What is an idol? Any god who is mine but not yours, any god concerned with me but not with you, is an idol.” –Rabbi Abraham Heschel, “RELIGION AND RACE” (14 January, 1963)

If there is a problem with idolatry from the point of view of Zhuangzian Daoism it is primarily in that it robs us of the opportunity to experience a sense of openness and limitlessness. These correspond to emptiness in that they are not in any sense definitively specifiable events—there is no “thing” called limitlessness. These terms must self-efface to retain their meaning.

Again, Zhuangzi believes that such an experience makes for a happier life. That’s pretty much the whole of it.

Openness, to my thinking, can be taken as the whole of Zhuangzi’s vision—just as it can be understood as synonymous with the goals of other similar approaches. I will attempt a quote from possibly the earliest Daoist/Zen treatise, Xin-Xin Ming, from a faulty memory: “Openness is easy; just hold no opinions about anything.” Here also is one from a more secular source: “Nothing is more conducive to peace of mind than not having any opinion at all.” (Georg Carl Lichtenberg).

Easy? I think not. Possible? Who knows? But certainly well with the effort to explore its psychological and practical implications. Like so many characterizations of the psychology of sagacity, the first-order value of this one resides in its direct challenge to our typical inclinations. It rubs us the wrong way in a variety of ways, and that is our opportunity to explore the why of it. We needn’t even have to agree with it to get an inkling of openness in considering it.

The introductory quote inspired this series and it speaks to the practical and social consequences of openness that I will consider anon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.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