UNDER HEAVEN LXXVI

Huizi “found no peace in it [his labors] even for himself, scattering himself unceasingly into all things . . .” (p 129)

The idea of “scattering oneself unceasingly into all things” is intriguing because it seems to suggest the dark side of precisely what Zhuangzi would have us do—completely identify with all things. “All things” in this case, however, is all things plus. If the Totality were merely all things then it would indeed be just another thing, and our identification with it would be a scattering of our self-thing. Identifying with what is not-a-thing, but is rather a “Transforming Openness”, is to have a self, an identity, that is not a thing, but an unfixed openness.

In his commentary on the Zhuangzi, Guo Xiang (252?-312) speaks of a “dark joining” with things or of “vanishing into” things. (Ziporyn; The Penumbra Unbound, p 19) Here, I think, he hit upon a fundamental aspect of Zhuangzi’s vision. Accomplishing this requires realizing oneself as not-a-thing.

For Guo, every idea that we have of the thingness of things is a “trace”, a footprint left behind by happenings to which we cannot correctly assign concrete (fixed and persisting) thingness. Our self is thus also not a thing, but a spontaneous happening. Vanishing into things is simply identifying with the Great Happening—the Transforming Openness. When the self sees itself as a transforming openness its identification with all things is not a scattering, but a uniting.

But it is a “dark” uniting in the sense that in identifying with openness something of our sense of identity cannot go with it. We don’t get to “be” our self anymore. No-fixed-self is a self with an identity that is also not-an-identity. What does this mean? I have no idea. I have no way into it by way of words or thoughts , both of which necessarily imply the identity of that which we wish to say that it is not-an-identity. Is this possible? How would I know?

Identifying with the Totality, for Zhuangzi, is thus not a belief in Universal Mind, I AM, Universal Self, or Whatever. These are all things, and things are not an openness.

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