Scott:  I’m reading some Buddhist stuff on emptiness, and a big part of their project is to realize the emptiness of self—to get that it has no “inherent existence”. Isn’t that what you mean when you have Yan say “I have not yet begun to exist”?

Zhuangzi:  Yep. Do you also see how we differ?

Scott:  Well, I find Buddhism pretty hard to pin down—it seems more like a bunch of schools disagreeing with each other than a single point of view. Add popular Buddhism on top of that and it’s hard to say what they believe. But generally speaking, I’d say that Buddhism is essentially a religious project—it knows stuff and it believes that people and the cosmos need saving. You, on the other hand, affirm the lot just as it is—however it is.

Zz:  Yeah, we both recognize that our human experience and expression is a pretty big mess—we suffer a lot and cause other people and things to suffer—but I see this determination as an entirely human point of view. It’s a human problem. They seem to project it onto the cosmos. That’s where they start their knowing.

Scott:  So, just because the self is empty—not a fixed and persisting entity—doesn’t mean that the cosmos and everything in it is also “empty”—that being an entirely human conception. (A rock is empty only to me—not to itself.) And just because humanity deems itself as messed up doesn’t mean that the cosmos is also messed up. It is what it is, and what it “is” is completely affirmable—because that’s how it is.

Zz:  Exactly. The realization of the emptiness of self is simply an exercise for the alleviation of our suffering and the cessation of our inflicting suffering on others and the world. It has nothing to do with setting the cosmos aright again—it’s already “right”.

Scott:  And how is that not also a kind of knowing?

Zz:  Good question! First, it is only an imagined point of view. It is a chosen understanding of the world—not a statement of fact about the world. As such, it recognizes its equivalence with Buddhism—a different imagined and (hopefully) chosen point of view. This is how they are the same. They differ in that Buddhism—at least as best as I can figure—takes its point of view as something other than imagined—but rather as the truth about the nature of things.

Scott: And secondly, since life is experienced as affirmation, you choose to affirm it. And to affirm one’s life is to affirm all things. You don’t know it—you experience it.

Zz:  Yep. So if we can consciously choose a point of view—itself a kind of freedom—we want to choose that one which we find best facilitates our practical affirmation of life and our collective-flourishing. I’m just of the opinion that a religious point of view ultimately just makes for more suffering—and fails of honesty.

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