UNDER HEAVEN XVI

When it comes to good intentions, it would be hard to criticize Song Xing. He adopted many of the laudable goals of Mohism—pacifism, universal love, universal-flourishing—and the means by which to achieve them—disarmament, personal and social austerity. What he seems to have added is an analysis of the motivations that prevent the realization of these goals and a prescription for their remedy.

These, as we have already discussed, can be seen in his suggestion that we are all stuck in our own personal “separating pens” (pie yu)—pig sties. Very much like Zhuangzi, he suggests that if we can understand this and its relativizing implications to our cherished opinions, we can achieve a higher point of view that will open up into greater tolerance and a more universal-concern.

His saying, “To be insulted is not a disgrace”, is taken by Zhuangzi as an inward movement intended to free one from dependence on the opinions of others. Song Xing’s more immediate intention, however, seems to have been outward-looking. Free from the propensity to take offence, we are less likely to pursue a course of conflict.

The mechanics of this remedy are still very much doing (wei), however, and as such involves a chain of causation, which is to say dependence.

Zhuangzi also points out that Song “made a sharp and fixed division between inner and outer” (1:7), and that this, though helpful, does not go far enough. There remains self and other, and this can only be transcended through more radical, mystical means.

Song sought freedom through the preservation of the sanctity of self-identity; Zhuangzi suggested a further movement into the loss of a fixed-identity in identification with “the vastest arrangement” which subsumes every identity so that any identity is also every identity. In other words, Zhuangzi suggested we experience Oneness.

This is not a complete negation of Song’s insight, however. It is dialectical, which is to say that it goes further while subsuming that which precedes it. The experience of Oneness is not the negation of not-oneness. We “are” a self, and as such “have” a self-identity. Only now it is unfixed, a “temporary lodging”. As such, Song’s suggestion that we allow our self-esteem to be free of dependence on the outer—the opinions of others—remains valid. Only now this self-experience is permeable; now it experiences itself as a not-oneness that is also a Oneness.