YANG ZHU V

For his demonstration of the Yangist emphasis on “genuineness” (chen) Graham quotes from “The Old Fisherman” chapter of the Zhuangzi (31) where it is to be sincere and not artificial as one tends to be when following (Confucian) ritual. I don’t find this immediately helpful, but genuineness—authenticity—is, I think, a very important aspect of Zhuangzian Daoism. Be who you are.

This is not an invitation to “act out”, but to harmonize with one’s actual human experience. We keep coming back to this because this is the essence of Zhuangzi’s philosophy. His release into and identification with “the vastest arrangement” (the Great Openness) is in response to this experience and is an extension of authenticity. His mystical leap is as true to his experience as is his sense of being suspended in pan-ambiguity. Nor is this leap fundamentally other than what we do in every waking moment—entrust ourselves to life.

Living authentically is living harmoniously with our human experience. This requires self-awareness—that is, self-knowledge. It also requires honesty. For Sartre, its opposite is “bad faith”—pretending that our motivations are other than they actually are—a kind of self-deceit.

Living authentically is thus also not to seek to “add to the process of life”. What can be added to life? Enlightenment. Immortality. Salvation. The realization of anything extraneous to our actual humanity.

Zhuangzi’s “Perfect/Consummate Person” (1:8) is thus someone who has made the most of an otherwise messy existence. If indeed existence is suffering, then the Zhuangzian sage does not seek to escape suffering, but rather to make the best possible use of it.

This is a great parting of ways that decides whether our response to life will be religiously-minded or existential.

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