TAKING ZHUANGZI TO THE LAUNDROMAT III

Shen Dao:  So as I was saying, I played several games at once. If you’ve got the spirit of play, that’s easy enough to do.

Scott:  Philosophically speaking, you seem to have played at both proto-Daoism and proto-Legalism as best we can determine. Were there other games as well?

Shen Dao:  Of course! If I was a son, husband and a father—Zhuang wouldn’t want me to claim these as fact! Ha, ha!—If I were any of these, then they’d each require a different kind of game-playing, don’t you think?

Scott:  I suppose they would. Being “like a twirl in the breeze, like a spinning feather” or “like an inanimate object” might not be the best way to provide for a family.

Shen Dao:  No it wouldn’t. But it might inform—to take a word from you and Zhuang—my family-game, just as the family-game would inform all the others.

Zhuangzi:  So Scott, what do you think is the common denominator in all this game-playing?

Scott:  Play. The spirit of play. And that’s your “wandering”, “roaming” and “soaring”.

Zz:  Precisely. And a synonym for play is freedom—the freedom to play all life’s games—taking them all quite seriously, while knowing how they are not so serious at all.

Scott:  So if one has the spirit of play, no external realities need to change at all. One doesn’t need to become a forest recluse or a meditating blob with eyes rolled up, but rather lives the game of life pretty much like everyone else. Only it’s all done in that transcendent freedom.

Zz:  Correct. Though if one wants to be a recluse or a blob, that’s quite alright as well. It might even help one to realize that freedom.

Shen Dao:  So Scott, what “common denominator” have you discovered now that you’ve heard from so many of us ancient philosophers?

Scott:  First and foremost, I see that none of your differences really matter in the long term. You’re all dead and equalized. You all just played the game of life; some of you might have enjoyed the game more than others, but even that’s not easily determined. As for more practical short-term consequences, perhaps they made a difference in the world, but it’s not so easy to determine how. They’re all so tangled up that we can’t say what caused what. Did “Daoism” contribute to the excesses of the Qin? Did Confucianism contribute to the Cultural Revolution?

Shen Dao:  I agree, though amidst the tangle we can see that some philosophies were more helpful than others, though none can claim disentanglement from the general mess.

Zz:  When right and wrong are understood as so completely entangled we are free to choose our own without the entanglement of taking them as fixed, sure and true.

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