“This”, a subjective point of view, creates “That”, the view that it is not. “Self” creates “Other”. Without the one there would not be the other. “This is the theory of the simultaneous generation of ‘this’ and ‘that’.” (Ziporyn; 2:16) But just as they create one another, so also do they destroy one another. Every “this” is also a “that”, and every “that” is also a “this”. Is there really then any “this” or “that”?

Whether there is or there is not, it is possible to “unite them to form a oneness”. It is possible to imagine an experience in which all things “bask in the broad daylight if Heaven”, an experience of the non-dual.

“When ‘this’ and ‘that’—right and wrong—are no longer coupled as opposites—that is called the Dao as Axis, the axis of all daos.” (2:17) Dao is the confluence of all daos—yours, mine, everyone’s. Dao is the equalization of all theories about things and of things themselves, not because their sameness trumps their differences, but because we can imagine it thus.

This is the essence of Zhuangzi’s argument in the second of the Inner Chapters. It’s worth “trying on”, he thinks, because it can transform how we relate to the world. It can issue in greater inner and outer peace.

“It is only someone who really gets all the way through them that can see how the two sides open into each other to form a oneness. Such a person would not define rightness in any one particular way but would instead entrust it to the everyday function [of each being]. . . It’s just a matter of going by the “rightness” of the present ‘this’.” (2:23) We might describe this as openness and tolerance.

The experience of the view from Dao enables an appreciation of all daos. It’s a bit like an appreciation of Nature that allows for an appreciation of all its expressions—cobras as well as meerkats—deserts as well as forests.

This conceptual experiment is only a tool the intent of which is to bring us to the point of needing no such thing. “To do this without knowing it, and not because you have defined it as right, is called ‘the Dao’.” Imaginative exercises are just training wheels. But even these help us to go somewhere.

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