THE LIBERATION OF THE WELL FROG XIII

Scott:  So what about Gongsun Long and Huizi? They did the groundwork that led you to take the leap into vastness, but they didn’t see the need, or possibly saw it as somehow unjustified.-

Zhuangzi:  They’re not called “Logicians” for nothing. In the end, for all their supposed irrationalism, they remained rationalists. Irrationalism is a product of rationalism. They are mutually generating opposites. Human existence doesn’t make sense; therefore, it is absurd. This is rationalism deciding that the human experience is irrational. The Logicians never stopped taking reason as their sole teacher. But the leap into vastness is neither rational nor irrational—it is non-rational. As such, it can affirm both the reasonableness of reason and the irrationality of reason.

Scott:  So the liberation of the well-frog was to leap (something natural enough for a frog, I guess) into vastness where all value is equalized and every single thing is both inherently valuable and participates in the value of all other things. But what about Gongsun Long whom the author compares to the unliberated well-frog? Can he be liberated? Does he need to be liberated?

Zz:  Because he’s discouraged, he could use with some liberating, don’t you think? But the author of the story just has him told to go away and forget his supposed encounter with vastness through reading my work. Like the well-frog lording over the tiny creatures in his well, he thought he was really somebody because he was a master at debate—but now he realizes it means nothing. So, yes, I’d suggest to him another dao. But he would be unlikely to consider it, which is just fine. He’d still cope in some way or another, even if with a bit less enjoyment.

Scott:  And Huizi? You invested a lot of time trying to convince him. Did he come around?

Zz:  “Trying to convince him” was never my chief aim. If I had convinced him, how could I have honed my own dao? Without Huizi as my foil, I may have had a very different philosophy. In any case, no; he remained unconvinced. But he still enjoyed his life as much as most people do—maybe even a little more.

Scott:  I’m seeing an inverted pyramid of dialectic here. Typically, we think that a dialectic moves us upward toward a pinnacle—truth—but you seem to see it as moving us out into greater diversity. Does that make sense?

Zz:  Sure. Huizi honed his dao in opposition to my dao and I honed mine in opposition to his. It was a win-win. There’s no pinnacle of truth to which to move. You know the story about a time when there were many suns in the sky. A sage-king had all but one shot out of the sky, because there should only be one sun, one Truth, one ruler.

Scott:  But you twist it around and have a sage say, “How much better are many suns!”

Zz:  Yep. Let a ten thousand flowers bloom! It’s all beautiful!

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