THE LIBERATION OF THE WELL FROG VI

Zhuangzi:  It seems to me that the only thread left dangling was my suggestion of a second example of the author’s reversion to knowing—his belief that one can definitively know what’s the Heavenly and what’s the human; that de is only found in the Heavenly; and thus one can and should discover the Heavenly in oneself, and nurture that.

Scott:  Your “pet peeve”—as you said. Mine is this idea of a “true nature” as opposed to the actual, real-world expression of our humanity. He seems to suggest this true nature when he speaks of “what is genuine in you”.

Zz:  I misspoke—sages aren’t meant to have peeves! Ha, ha. But yes, all this talk of the Heavenly as opposed to the human probably makes most “moderns” scratch their heads, but the whole issue resolves to whether or not there is anything beyond our apparent suspension in utter ambiguity that can guide us.

Scott:  That’s a pretty universal hunger—today as much as in your time. We want a fixed mooring that makes existence make sense, reason seem reasonable, and ourselves seem “full and real”.

Zz:  Right. And the most fundamental point of departure for Daoism—as you call it—is that there is absolutely no definitive guidance to be found—anywhere—we are adrift in not-knowing and no experience or attainment is available to change that.

Scott:  “A dao that guides is not a sustainable dao.”

Zz:  Exactly. No dao that knows is Dao. Dao is that Utter Ambiguity. The Dao that guides does so by not-guiding—by continually knocking the feet out from under our attempts at knowing. Dao is the emptiness of not-knowing that ceaselessly and unavoidably contextualizes whatever we think we know.

Scott:  And getting that is the “getting it” that we were discussing earlier. Dao has no positive value—it is the valuelessness that enables the equal valuation of all things. Hmm—I’m not sure how that follows.

Zz:  Humans assign value. We typically assign that value discriminatingly—some things are more valuable than others—humans are more valuable than monkeys, I am more valuable than you, life is more valuable than death. Getting a sense of Dao as that which values all things equally—by not-valuing them—informs our value-assigning.

Scott:  So humans value things, and that’s okay—that’s what we do. But if we allow the view from Dao that equalizes all things to inform our valuating . . . then we value and don’t value at the same time. “Neither of the two”!

Zz:  Exactly. It’s always “neither of the two”. As I tried to make clear, neither the Heavenly nor human trumps the other—we walk a new road, the road of two roads at once—not exclusively the road of valuelessness, nor the road of relative values—but a paradoxical road steeped in ambiguity.

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