There are numerous ways in which we use traces (fixed ideas) to define ourselves. The most fundamental of these is the posited “me” in the I-me relationship. Without this relationship it is hard to imagine how self-consciousness could persist. It seems to be a necessary attribute of our human experience. Even Zhuangzi’s imaginary sage Ziqi, who has lost his “me”, seems to still have it enough to engage in self-reflection. “‘I’ have lost my ‘me’” is self-contradictory, for without “me” there can be no “I”. And vice versa. Thus, the loss of one’s “me” must be a shifting of perspective where the “me” is both there and transcended. No-self is not the absence of self, but a perspectival shift—a view from Dao—that does not cling to self as to a fixed and real thing. It is no-fixed-self.
As an aside, it is worth noting that this means that the emptiness at our core, that gap between “I” and “me” that makes self-consciousness possible, is unavoidable. But this is just some more “uselessness” that can be rendered most useful. It’s the empty hub in the wheel, the window that allows light to enter. It is the yin that can balance and illuminate our all-consuming yanging. This is what philosophical Daoism is all about—just factoring nothingness/emptiness into our view of the world and ourselves.
I am me, but who is me? Brook Ziporyn suggests that much of Zhuangzi’s philosophical argument in Chapter 2 can be summed up with just this: Who? The power of Who? resides in its unanswerabilty. Who is the Blower that makes the ten thousand things move and sing? We cannot know, so it seems that nothing makes them exist at all—they are self-so, spontaneously arising. Who am I? I am a Who-ing?—an unanswerable question, an inexplicable happening with emptiness at its core. More uselessness—more opportunity to make it work for us.
This is a classic Zhuangzian shift toward yin. Who is the Blower? What is the ultimate Yang? There is no answer, so let it be Yin. Turn the question on its head. Cease the yanging and try a bit of yinning. Do not posit a Creator, but rather open up into openness. Embrace the emptiness of Who?.