IDOLATRY IV

“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)

Hate is possible for the same reason that love is possible. Both require two. But this is not hard to find since twoness describes our most fundamental experience as self-aware beings. Self is “I” aware of itself as an “other”, its “me”.

Self-hatred may be the most common form of hatred, but finding itself too hard to bear, it projects itself onto more distant “others”. The racism implied in the quote above likely has its beginnings here. Hate is exclusionary.

Love is inclusionary. It spans the gulf of twoness in the formation of a oneness. But this requires a twoness that is also a oneness, or a oneness that is also a twoness. How is it that everything always seems to speak of walking two roads at once?

Self-love must also be a formation of a oneness. Perhaps this can tell us something of what Ziqi meant when he said he’d lost his “me”. He experienced himself as a twoness that was also a oneness. And this led him to a vision of the oneness of the forest by virtue of the self-so uniqueness of its trees. A Oneness that was also a not-Oneness.

Some degree of self-love must be a prerequisite to other-love. The more self-oneness, the more self-other-oneness. Fortunately, imperfection and approximation, which is to say the essential messiness of existence, manages to flourish despite the same.

This trajectory into inclusionary openness, oneness, is a central part of Zhuangzi’s vision. I guess we could call it love, though he does not call it such. In any case, like love, it feels good. Perhaps this is something of what Buddhism is about when it speaks of all-inclusive compassion. I’ve never quite got this supreme valuation of compassion. “Heaven is not humane.” That’s more my cup of tea.

Their real point of divergence, it seems to me, is that Buddhism seems to think this apparent reality needs saving by way of compassion, while Zhuangzian Daoism recognizes no such need. All is well in the Great Mess. Improving the experience is elective and can thus be accomplished playfully and without its being yet another burden.

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