THE LIBERATION OF THE WELL FROG XII

Scott:  It seems to me that this is a good time for some paradoxes.

Zhuangzi:  Yes! That’s what Gongsun Long and my buddy Huizi were on to. Their deconstruction of language—the demonstration that its grounding is in mere convention, rather than “reality”—that our attempt to make sense of things doesn’t ultimately make sense—led them to understand how the world is non-rational. But how can you demonstrate that with words?

Scott: By creating paradoxes that help to push our minds beyond the confines that words naturally imply. “Nothing is bigger than the tip of an autumn hair, and Mt. Tai is small.”

Zz:  Precisely. When we understand how the “small” and the “big” are the same, we get a sense of vastness. But vastness doesn’t mean really, really big—which would be to once again get caught in the limitedness that language requires. Vastness is limitlessness—complete Open-endedness—something that language, and therefore reason, cannot articulate.

Scott:  So, Dao is this vastness. Which is not a thing, but simply another way of seeing the world.

Zz:  And this Dao is a human creation—just like language.

Scott:  Whoa! That’s saying something radical—but I’m not sure what. Dao is a human creation . . . because Dao is a perspective—a way of seeing the world—and that is a purely human activity. So, is “this Dao” only a dao?

Zz:  Of course. Any Dao that is not a dao is unimaginable and thus entirely outside the provenance of human experience—except as an absence.

Scott:  Yet people largely take “the” Dao as . . . well, as a something—the Source, some kind of God-thing.

Zz:  This “grounds” us in Reality and makes our knowing and our existence make sense. Our natural inclination is to posit that which ends our natural adriftedness. We want a fast and sure mooring—and only an imagined Ultimate Something can provide it.

Scott:  So the choice is between whether to admit our inherent adriftedness and to figure out how to make the best possible use of it, or to imagine some kind of “Ground of Being” that securely anchors us to . . . meaning and purpose.

Zz: Exactly. But we’re stacking the deck a bit. We’re saying that our adriftedness is inherent—the way things really are. This is the “illumination of the obvious”—what our self-inquiry discovers about ourselves. But there’s no need to universalize it. Those who have yet to be “discouraged” or have adopted a different strategy for coping with it, are best left to their own daos. There’s no need for us to be loud-mouthed sea turtles.

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