UNDER HEAVEN XV

Song Xing saw personal transformation as the means to the transformation of society. Though this differs radically from those who turned it around and said that society (government) must transform the individual (Xunzi who believed humans to be essentially “warped” and in need of “straightening boards” and the Legalists who advocated for harsh laws), the fundamental motivation and use of action (wei) was the same. Change is necessary, and we have to make it happen.

Zhuangzi saw the transformation of society as only incidental to personal transformation and personal transformation as only incidental to depending on nothing. Freedom from the need for change is the occasion for the most effective change.

As is so often the case, this kind of thinking brings us to a paradox. Or, we might call it an unsolvable self-contradiction. Isn’t the Daoist strategy of having-no-strategy still a strategy? If we take non-dependence as our goal, are we not depending on non-dependence?

These are only problems because we are not sages. We are still thinking inside the box. Why all this discussion about how to improve ourselves and the world? Why this covert need to justify the Daoist position vis-à-vis our moral inclinations? We are still dependent.

And so, to my thinking, shall we remain. This understanding is of immense importance. Seeking non-dependence we further our dependence. What are we to do? Live the contradiction. Be imperfect and enjoy being so. There’s some approximating non-dependence in that.

Zen faces a similar conundrum. Meditation will not make one a buddha, but one cannot become a buddha without meditation. The difference, it seems to me, is that Zen believes one can somehow “arrive”, and this can lead to a Mozi-like “disciplining oneself as if with ropes and cords.”

Whatever turns your crank. It all amounts to the same thing in the end, does it not?

But what of those who claim they have “arrived”? I don’t believe. Why should I?

Why this experience rather than another? Why this god instead of that one? Why this claimant rather than his counter-claimant? Well, because any belief is believed to be better than “drift and doubt”. This, no doubt, explains my belief in “drift and doubt”.

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