WALKING TWO ROADS IV

It is because there is no definitive boundary between the heavenly road and the human road that we are able to walk them both at once. What they have in common is ambiguity, and it is through this that both roads pass. Zhuangzi admits that it would be great if there was such knowledge, if Heaven could give us clear guidance (dao us), but he concludes that it cannot (6:1-5).

If Heaven could tell us the right thing to do, then our only responsibility would simply be to do it. This is the consolation of religion. The path is clear. Things are black and white, without too much of the fearsome ambiguity of grey.

If, on the other hand, Heaven is understood as a Chaos in which questions of right and wrong have no meaning, then we are required to figure things out for ourselves in awareness of our lack of sufficient knowledge to definitively do so. We are cast into a world of uncertainty and doubt. The world is all grey, and our humanly acts of distilling a black and white from it is revealed as relative to personal and cultural contexts.

Zhuangzi sees this as an opportunity. Though we are pretty much obliged to have opinions, we can also understand them as only that. This allows us to “follow along with” the opinions of others, even when they are likely to be considered more than that. We are freed in having no-fixed-opinions, and this leads to tolerance.

The ambiguity of Heaven informs our human quest for the unambiguous such that we recognize the ambiguous nature of our unambiguous opinions. We walk the latter in the light of the former.

Ethical questions naturally raise their angry heads when we relativize right and wrong in this way, but we’ll have to leave them for another time.

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