BY NATURE WARPED VI

Xunzi:  There seems to be little reason to continue this discussion; we must simply agree to disagree, as Scott has said. So I think I’ll excuse myself and leave you two to your mutual agreement. Thank you, Scott, for your hospitality. I will now bid you both goodbye.

Scott:  Goodbye! Now I feel bad; I didn’t even offer him something to drink. At least that might have made the roast a bit more jovial.

Zhuangzi:  No need to feel bad; he’s a teetotaler in any case. But it always ends this way with Xun and those like him who know the truth. I, on the other hand, am no teetotaler!

Scott:  Coming right up! But I’m also feeling bad because it feels a bit like we also acted as though we knew the truth.

Zz:  I understand what you mean—we know the truth that there is no truth. And there’s no way around that except by way of the self-effacement of that truth. We don’t know. That’s how we can affirm Xun in his opinions even while holding to own contrary opinions—we must hold them lightly, open-handedly.

Scott:  That’s not easy to do.

Zz:  It’s not something we can do—it’s something we can only be.

Scott:  And how do we become that? But I don’t want to go there now! What a can of worms all this thinking creates! What I do want to address is what this conversation with Xunzi was intended to accomplish—a better understanding of how we get from self-centrism to collective-centrism without appealing to some heavenly principle. We haven’t made much progress in that direction, have we?

Zz:  No. But we have laid some groundwork. First, having taken human nature as morally neutral, we understand that moving from self-centrism to collective-centrism is not a moral issue. It’s not the “right” thing to do. That robs it of it’s being a moral imperative—something that has to be justified—and then imposed on humanity. Secondly, we observe that this is something than humans naturally do—part of the tangle of good and evil. We coalesce into ever more inclusive groupings. Why?

Scott:  Because it’s our nature to do so. And we also discover that that collective-centrism nourishes our self-centrism. They are not in opposition but are mutually supporting. But since this is the case, why are we discussing this movement as if it needed to be made into a project?

Zz:  Because they are also taken as in opposition. Self-centrism expands into a collective-centrism, but it also always stops at some exclusionary level. The I-other simply becomes a we-them. We unite as a family, clan, tribe, nation, race, species, animate beings—but there always remains some other. Something to exclude, something that threatens, something to disvalue and exploit.

Scott:  And the Daoist vision is to not stop, but to become pan-inclusive. And that ultimately opens into an openness where there is no longer any other at all.

Zz:  And that brings a great panoply of positive benefits, psychological and practical.

Scott:  Less fear. More pleasure and awe—“participating everywhere in the springtime of each being”. What fun! More tolerance. And a care and respect for all things, including the environment, which, in our species-centrism, we have threatened to the extent that our own flourishing is now at risk.

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