THE CHURCH OF PERNICIOUS ONENESS XIV

Scott:  Well, debating with Mencius was sure a lot easier than debating with Xunzi, but still it leaves me with a feeling of disquiet just the same. Arguing about Dao is not experiencing Dao.

Zhuangzi:  Yes, it all seems to miss the mark, does it not? That’s why there’s relief in taking it all as the chirping of baby birds. In this, our opinions are seen as the same and equal and thus of no great consequence. The experience of Dao is just this. However much our opinions matter—and they most certainly do—there is also that sense in which they matter not at all. All happenings are the Great Happening, as you say.

Scott: That’s Dao as the confluence of all daos—as you say. It’s a oneness manifest in infinite not-onenesses. And there are no not-onenesses that are not that oneness. Getting that, it seems to me, is the experience of Dao.

Zz: It is. It is Dao as that experience, not as a something to experience. This Dao is an experience—nothing more.

Scott:  It’s as I said—like a walk in the woods. What a mess they are! Dead trees and dying. Broken trees and hale. The song of birds and the screech of the dying. All good. All one. All affirmable. All a chaotic riot of spontaneous happenings. Taking our place there is finding joy in it all.

Zz:  A pernicious oneness to be sure. Yet no perniciousness arises therefrom. All Meng’s rightness is realized in the love for all things just as they are.

Scott:  Even as we are.

Zz:  Okay. I’m off. Until next time.

Scott: Until the next time.

THE CHURCH OF PERNICIOUS ONENESS XIII

Mencius:  The difference between my dao and Xun’s is that he takes rightness as external and I take it as internal. His wei is an imposition of rightness from without, since he takes human nature as evil; mine is a self-cultivation that uncovers the rightness within, since I believe that rightness is found in the human heart. And that, I think, makes for an altogether different sort of wei.

Scott:  It does. But it is wei just the same. It is a tyranny imposed most immediately on oneself, rather than on others, but that still naturally lends itself to a similar tyranny imposed on others. If we are hard on ourselves, we are typically hard on others.

Zz:  Perhaps Meng has fully realized his ideal, in which case he would not do as you say. The problem, however, is that by his own admission people are far estranged from their natural humaneness and therefore that which is intended as only an inner cultivation easily becomes an externalized tyranny. Humans are a mess of entangled rights and wrongs, and the enthronement of a right quickly lends itself to wrong.

Scott: And the same problem applies to the doctrines of wuwei and the transcendence of right and wrong. We tend to make a mess of whatever dao we follow. What are we to do?

Zz:  Live the mess. Be the mess.

Mencius:  Be the mess even while cultivating less of a mess. I can go along with that. And now I think I will move along. It’s been a pleasure meeting Scott. Let your heart grow! Goodbye.

Scott: Goodbye!

THE CHURCH OF PERNICIOUS ONENESS XII

Scott:  If I may summarize what I think you’re saying—To be human is to have a heart that is humane, however despoiled, one that wishes the flourishing of itself and all others; qi is the life force in us that is either diminished or expanded according to the degree to which we cultivate that humaneness; and Dao as a path of self-cultivation is the means by which we cultivate that humaneness. To experience flood-like qi is to have realized the fullness of one’s humanity as an expression of humaneness, and that is a deeply mystical experience of oneness.

Mencius:  Yes, that’s it. Do you not agree?

Scott:  It’s difficult to disagree; only I think that I must. It’s a wonderful model, and one worthy of following—once it is contextualized by the inhumane indifference of Nature and its corollary that human nature is neither good nor evil, but morally neutral, as is everything else in Nature.

Zhuangzi:  Human nature is morally neutral, yet humanity is most fully expressed in the fullness of humaneness.

Scott:  Which is to say that there is no “human nature”, if by that we mean something preordained, fixed and sure. Humanity is a happening that has evolved a dualism that discriminates between right and wrong, and participates in both. Yet it has discovered that the pursuit of the right—humaneness—is the way that leads to its greatest flourishing.

Zz:  Right and wrong are incidental—accidental—and the positive value of the pursuit of humaneness is similarly incidental.

Mencius:  I understand your desire to avoid an absolute rightness written in Heaven, but even without it you return to my dao.

Zz:  We do. But it is our understanding of the nature of Dao that makes all the difference. Your Dao is Rightness, fixed and sure; our Dao is empty and gives no guidance except to cast all our knowing and discriminations back into ambiguity. And that we take as the human condition, if not its nature.

Scott:  So it is in Dao as a means to the cultivation of humanity that we differ. The Dao of “Daoism” is yin; that of Confucianism is yang. We follow wuwei; you follow wei. And though I know that you strongly disagree with Xunzi who says that human nature is evil, you agree in the primacy of wei. And Xunzi’s wei led most naturally to Han Feizi’s Legalism and the tyranny of the Qin.

Zz:  Well now, I’m not sure it’s entirely fair to equate Meng’s wei with Xun’s, though I agree that Xun’s disciple Han Feizi did take Xun’s belief in the necessity of external controls to its logical conclusion.

Scott:  Granted. But any wei uninformed of yin tends in the same direction.

THE CHURCH OF PERNICIOUS ONENESS XI

Scott:  Once again we must agree to disagree. Is there a oneness to be had in that?

Zhuangzi:  There is if we wish to unite them, but it is only you and I who so wish. We must let Meng have his unadulterated not-oneness. That’s “going by the rightness of the present ‘this’”.

Mencius:  Thank you. And I will go by the rightness of my rightness.

Zz/Scott:  Agreed!!

Mencius:  But you are wrong to call my dao an unadulterated not-oneness. To be human is to have a heart that knows right from wrong and hungers for the right. To hunger for the right is to be one with one’s own nature; to accumulate rightness is become one with Heaven.

Scott:  And to fail of the right and to do the wrong, is that not also a oneness?

Mencius: Your oneness is indeed most pernicious! To do wrong is not-oneness.

Zz:  Then there is much that is not a oneness and that is no oneness. It is because right and wrong must forever sunder the world that we opt for its transcendence. For this reason the Laozi says that Heaven is not humane. But we would not deprive you of your hunger for rightness, nor of your belief that humaneness is a human oneness. Only we take them to be a purely human anomaly, and find no such discrimination in Heaven.

Scott:  Thus, a sense of oneness with Nature is both the transcendence of right and wrong and an affirmation of the human hunger for the right. We are left to walk two roads.

Mencius:  And I walk but one alone. Who then, knows true oneness?

 

Zz:  It is true that we know no true oneness; we can only imagine one, since we are by nature dual. Only we wish to honor our actual human condition of adriftedness and ambiguity and thereby do not let the human conquer Heaven or Heaven conquer the human.

Scott:  So we agree with you that when humanity is humane it has achieved a oneness with its own nature and has furthered the flourishing of its qi, the very élan of life. But because we differ in our understanding of Heaven, we also differ in how that humaneness might best be achieved.

Mencius:  Your precious wuwei. Pure nonsense.

Zz:  Yes, it is nonsense. Dao does nothing, yet nothing is left undone. Things do best when left to be and become themselves. But even Confucius understood true humaneness as spontaneously arising and unmediated by questions of right and wrong.

Mencius:  That is indeed the experience of the sage. But how one achieves sagacity is another thing altogether. For that much wei is required.

Scott:  Much wei is required for the achievement of wuwei, and neither can be said to ever stand alone and without the other. And sagacity is a chimera, though one worthy of imagining for the wei that it inspires.

THE CHURCH OF PERNICIOUS ONENESS X

Zhuangzi:  Do you both agree with me that we all sometimes make claims about our so-called spiritual experiences that exceed their actual significance? Can we at least admit a oneness in prevarication? That, I think, would be something of Scott’s pernicious oneness—an idea to which I think I could warm.

Scott:  I most certainly do.

Mencius:  And I do not.

Zz:  Well then, let’s look for something upon which we can all agree.

Scott:  Before we do, could I just say that I see this need to believe in sages as an expression of our fear of ambiguity and of our propensity to conjure up religious solutions to our human predicament rather than to live in honesty.

Mencius:  You could—and have. Truly, Zhuang, you have acquired a disciple in this new millennium!

Zz:  I guess I have. But if we two, at least, are one in our prevarication, then I might as well be his disciple as he might be mine. Scott, “I beg to be your disciple”!

Scott:  You already are! Do I not make you say what I wish you to say and interpret you according to my own needs?

Zz:  Neither of the two! Neither of us is either master or disciple, but a becoming beyond all things fixed!

Mencius:  If it’s ambiguity that you two want, then you have succeeded admirably. Some of us, however, would call it folly and chaos.

Zz:  Indeed! And you too can join us in our pernicious oneness!

Scott:  Or we, at least, can include him.

Mencius:  I am flattered, but must decline the invitation to join you, though you can imagine what you wish.