UNDER HEAVEN LIX

“He may be said to have attuned himself to whatever he encountered, thereby arriving up beyond them to the source of things.” (p 124)

This observation touches on an essential aspect of Zhuangzi’s practical vision. The way “up” is by way of our responses to the immediate and the mundane. Circumstance is opportunity. Always, and in every case. This is where the rubber meets the road.

And this is where the real work takes place (and I have heaps to do). It’s not about trying to get “up beyond”, but about harmonizing with the here and now.

What does it mean that he “attuned himself with whatever he encountered”? Broadly speaking, it implies harmonization and acceptance. It means “following along with the rightness of their present ‘this’”. (2:33) “For to him 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)

This is where we typically run into difficulties vis-à-vis our moral sense. Bad things are happening—do we just say they’re okay for the sake of our own peace? The answer to this is complex.

First, we must realize that asking the question evinces our bondage to right and wrong. That it is for us a problem is the problem. This has nothing whatsoever to do with whether there is right and wrong. To be free of that bondage does not eliminate right and wrong; it simply transforms our relation to them.

In “the vastest arrangement” there is no right and wrong, and thus our contextualizing of ourselves in that recontextualizes our genuine human experience of recognizing and experiencing right and wrong. How so?

We understand that they do not represent constant, fixed, and ultimate outcomes. All is (ultimately) well in this Great Mess. We understand that ultimately nothing can harm us. (Just as nothing can ultimately benefit us.) Nothing can ultimately benefit or harm others.

But things can and do benefit or harm us and others in a temporal and immediate way. An thus we are desirous to change things, while also not allowing them to “enter our Numinous Reservoir” so as to disturb our peace.

And we are thereby better able to do this. More on this in the next post.

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