Each thing reveals the One,

the One manifests as all things.

(Stanza 22)

When you live this non-separation,

All things manifest the One, and nothing is excluded.

(Stanza 20)

Referring to the handily hypothetical sages of ancient times, Zhuangzi says, “Their oneness was the oneness, but their non-oneness was also the oneness.” (6:22) Dualism is also non-dualism, and non-dualism is also dualism. This was the final (?) conclusion of Buddhism: Samsara (illusion and attachment to the same) is Nirvana. It’s all good. It’s all affirmable.

This, we must assume, applies as equally to those who are completely uninformed of oneness as to those who are so informed. To be utterly fettered is to be as free as to be utterly unfettered—at a certain level. Getting that is to be unfettered—on a certain level.

Still, there are obvious advantages to being informed of oneness. It’s existentially better—happier—to be unfettered than fettered. Though these same “ancients” were able to equalize longevity and an early death, they were still desirous of the former. It’s a good thing to live a long and full life, even though it can be seen as equivalent to a life cut short. “No one lives longer than a dead child.”

So, we’re back to walking two roads. Zhuangzi continues his reference to the ancients: “In their oneness, they were followers of the Heavenly. In their non-oneness, they were followers of the Human. This is what it is for neither the Heavenly nor the Human to win out over the other. And that is what I call being both Genuine and Human, a Genuine Human Being.” (6:23) To be human is to be a dualistic phenomenon; from that there is no existential escape. But our dualism can be recontextualized by an experience of the non-dual (which is no “better” or “real” than dualism). That’s the project of philosophical Daoism in a nutshell.

So, there’s nowhere we need to go, but somewhere we can go that’s worth the effort.

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