HAVING A GOOD LAUGH III

As already suggested, an ironic statement requires thoughtful engagement in order to be understood. Yet, when understood, there is no sure form that that understanding will take. It is a subjective truth.

This, of course, is an example of wu-wei, non-being the change. It is pedagogical midwifery. The midwife does her part to be sure, but the real work is done by she who delivers, and that which she delivers is uniquely her own.

This reflects the Daoist position on the exercise of power generally. The ruler rules in such a way that when there are positive outcomes the people declare, “We did it ourselves.” (Laozi 17) She yins. Yet most rulers and teachers want to be in full control so as to be sure of the results and to be able to take credit for them. They yang.

Taken ironically, the Inner Chapters do not guarantee a single interpretation. “The guidelines within them are undepletable, giving forth new meanings without shedding the old ones. Vague! Ambiguous! We have not got to the end of them yet.” (33; p 124)

The real parting of ways when interpreting Zhuangzi is found here. Are we to take it all literally, or do we understand it as only a vague pointing? Is it yang, or is it yin? Does it tell us the truth of things, or does it help us to find our own truth?

The ability to rest in this ambiguity and its consequently diverse “truths” is in itself part of the purpose of this Zhuangzian joke. It is Dao as the confluence of all daos and the ability to “go by the rightness of the present ‘this’.” (2:16)

“For him [the sage], each thing is just so, each thing is right, and so he enfolds them all within himself by affirming the rightness of each.” (2:41)

3 thoughts on “HAVING A GOOD LAUGH III”

  1. “For him [the sage], each thing is just so, each thing is right, and so he enfolds them all within himself by affirming the rightness of each.” (2:41)
    Can you help me understand this better? I struggle with this. I try to take things and bring them down to the earth of practicality. For instance: Though the story of Chicken Little is just that, a story, it does point and offer an analogy that reflects that drama dream we find ourselves living in AND also the real reality of a situation. In one way I could be chill while Chicken Little is running around in the fantasy of his truth in his mind and “sort of” affirm the rightness of each. On the other hand there is the absolute non-subjective truth of this matter that it was a acorn that hit CH on the head. Is each view just another subjective truth or does one possess the truth (reality) while the other view doesn’t? Like I have said before, the truth is the result of us finding out what isn’t the truth in our life. In CH’s case a good dose of reality would dissolve his untruth that he is living in. It was an acorn Chicken Little! But if there isn’t a reality then why should we (me) even consider such things? Is there a reality or not? Can we know small portions of life’s reality? (not the absolute Cosmos reality)

  2. If we take Zhuangzi as consistent (which he doubtless wasn’t in some instances!) then it must be possible to follow this suggested road while still helping people to better understand their circumstances. Isn’t that what Zz’s entire project is about? Even this suggested equanimity is intended to fix a problem in how we engage with the world. He likely would have taken CL aside and try to help him.

    But CL’s problem would also not be viewed as of cosmic importance. Again, two roads comes into play.

    I think the most interesting thing in this verse is the part about “enfolding them all within himself”. This sage would have dealt with CL’s delusion as his own. That makes for a very different kind of helping.

    But back to your question: Is there a sense in which all expressions are equal? Can we push out the envelope far enough to see all things as One? That’s what this about doing. That doesn’t mean we ignore differences, only that we get an additional perspective. It’s all imaginative, of course. But so is the belief that all this matters. We think that CL’s problem matters ultimately, and it doesn’t, does it? If it doesn’t, dealing with it takes on a different motivation altogether.

  3. “This sage would have dealt with CL’s delusion as his own. That makes for a very different kind of helping”

    I like this because I sense humility and empathy from the sage. A humility and empathy that proceeds forth from our equal sharing in our humanity of being prone to being delusional. That indeed is a different kind of helping.

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