Zhuangzi:  No more wine? Well, I need to be on my way in any case. I’ve got another debate with Xunzi and Mencius yesterday.

Scott:  Yesterday?

Zz:  Yeah, “I left today and arrived yesterday”. Ha. Ha. Out beyond, the sun ‘don’t’ rise.

S:  So, how’d the first debate go?

Zz:  As all such things go—nowhere. Still, we all tuned up our own opinions in the process. Mencius and I are really on the same page—though he won’t admit it. Xunzi, on the other hand, he’s a bit of work. It’s hard trying to reason with a . . . what’s that word? . . “fascist”?

S:  That’ll work.

Zz:  He knows what’s right for everybody and thinks it’s the government’s job to force everyone to comply. At least Mencius’ pedagogical model for societal improvement allows for lots of breathing room. And his mystical side opens up into cultivating people’s natural humanity.

S:  His experience of “flood-like qi”?

Zz:  Yeah. He’s pretty vague on it! But he gets a good buzz from completely affirming and releasing into the human life-experience—he’s just afraid to go all-in on the mystical side. He’s afraid it’ll open people up to a moral free-for-all. You know how it is—a trust in humanity betrayed by a simultaneous distrust.

S:  Yeah. Though admittedly there’s room for pessimism. But it hardly seems like it could make things much worse. But back to your opinions on this Trump thing—what do you think, are there any helpful parallels?

Zz:  To be sure. Part of his appeal is his war on personal liberties. Your . . . Puritans? . . . what do you call them now?

S:  Evangelicals.

Zz: Yeah, Evangelicals. Like Xunzi they know what’s right and wrong, and believe they’re obliged to force it on everyone else. For them freedom of religion is the freedom to oppress others. Not that your “liberals” aren’t capable of doing the same thing.

S:  So, the healthier way is—grow our humanity. I see what you mean about Mencius.

Zz:  Yeah, we’re on the same page. Got to go.  Keep the non-faith!


Scott:  I have to confess that I was secretly hoping Trump would win. Since true, progressive change was denied us by the Democratic elite, why not just let Trump give people a huge and hopefully final dose of corporatism, plutocracy and bigotry? Maybe that will wake them up? But now, well, it’s scary now that it’s happened.

Zhuangzi:  Yes, you now live in even more “interesting times”. But you know the story of the man who met the rise and fall of so-called good and bad fortune with equanimity, don’t you? Where’s that found?

S:  The Liezi, I think.

Zz: Ah, yes. The Liezi. It doesn’t have anything by Liezi, you know. Most everything I wrote about him I just made up! He was a bit of a legend, so I made use of his fame. There’s some good Yangist stuff in there, though. A bit one-sided, his emphasis on preserving one’s life as priority number one, but he was on to something. People today don’t get how there was a time when the individual didn’t matter for much—personal freedom wasn’t part of the societal scheme back in his day. He made an important contribution to our understanding of ourselves.

S: Graham suggests you might have once been a Yangist.

Zz: Ha, Ha. Graham had lots of fun playing with my stuff—I just hope he didn’t take his play too seriously. You can play with him, I hope. You do know that you’re just playing with my stuff too, don’t you?!

S: I try to remember that that’s all I’m doing, yeah.

Zz: So, where was I? Oh yeah, the story. There’s a guy whose horse runs off. His neighbors say, Bad luck! He replies, Who knows? Then the horse returns with other horses. What good luck! Who knows? Then his son tries to ride one, falls off and breaks his leg. Bad luck! Who knows? Then the army comes looking for cannon fodder and his son escapes because of his leg. Good luck! Who knows? And so it goes.

S: So the misfortune of having Trump as president (I can hardly say it) and of having millions of people who think that that’s just dandy—that might just turn out for the best. That’s my hope.

Zz: Well, yes. But since you don’t know if the “benefit” that comes out of it won’t be “harm” in the end, maybe you’re missing something.

S: And that is . . . ?

Zz: Well, that “benefit and harm” are all tangled up! We can’t be sure what’s which. And my benefit might be your harm. Better to put your “hope” in what’s beyond hope—beyond concern for benefit and harm. Let your hope be a non-dependent hope—a kind of non-hope. Come on, you know the drill! All is Well!

S: How could I not know it—I made it up. Or did you? I’m not sure.

Zz: Ha. You won’t get an answer to that out of me!


Scott:  So, we can and should be engaged in the struggle for greater justice for us all and for the environment. And we should do so non-violently. Do you have any other strategies to suggest?

Zhuangzi:  Well, for starters, it’d be best not to work on the basis of “should”.

S:  I shouldn’t say “should”?

Z:  You can say “should”, but how you arrive at your “shoulds” is best not done on the basis of “should”. It’s best to do it because that’s who you are—unmediated by should and shouldn’t. Confucius got that, you know. He said he didn’t give a hoot about ought and ought not. It’s unfortunate that he was so bound by tradition—so conservative, but he was a great moralist to be sure.

S:  Yes, I get that. But this too is all tangled up, right? I mean my no-should and my shoulds are both simultaneously present and at work.

Zz: Of course. Everything is all tangled up. Everything. When you get and accept that, well, you’re free to wander in the “slippery mush”—or the “mess”, as you say. It’s not about dis-entangling the world—making it all clear and understandable—but living freely in the tangles—and that’s a different kind of dis-entangling—a dis-entangling of yourself.

S: So, for a strategy in encouraging others to get involved we could say there’s no need for “should”, because the caring is already in the one’s who can best be engaged. It’s a question of helping them to make their caring count.

Zz:  Exactly. Those who do not care about what we care about are more likely to change their opinions by way of our example then by way of our preaching. That’s wuwei one-o-one.

S: Okay. Returning to personal strategies: I should be non-violent; but I shouldn’t need to rely on shoulds; but I can practice being non-violent even while I’m working on the basis of shoulds.

Zz: And you can wander freely atop all these contradictions—because this is life, and life is a much better teacher than the mind that insists that things make sense—they don’t and never will.


Scott:  So, you were going to give me some broad-stroke advice on how to proceed in the age of Trump.

Zhuangzi:  Was I? Okay, I’ll try. But you’ll know that I have no specific answers, right? This is your time, not mine. What I did in my time was keep my head low. That’s how I kept it. You’re not likely to lose yours if you get actively involved—unless you’re a person of color, of course—then the odds of getting killed go up.

It’s important to stay non-violent, of course. It’s yin that overcomes yang. Yanging just invites more yanging, as you know. Yinning is non-being the change. It’s wuwei—non-action action. It’s acting yinnishly.

And this has to come from your guts. If you hate, you’re the same as what you hate. We become what we hate.

S:  The Christians say, “Hate the sin, but love the sinner.” Is that sort of what you mean?

Zz:  Well, not really. That sounds like a lot of BS to me. Isn’t it really just an excuse to inflict a narrow view on others? It’s a whole lot of yanging. And it amounts to just another form of hate. How do you love those whom you don’t affirm and accept?

This Christian thing has got me baffled, I have to admit. Why is what we do with our penises and vaginas so important? I don’t get that. Isn’t it more important that we care for people’s welfare?

S:  The Christian God has a huge problem with sex—go figure. But then, he’s a very small-minded god, in any case.

But, love Trump? That’s asking a lot.

Zz:  Well, he’s human, right? You and he are the same.

S: Ouch! That hurts. But I know you’re right.

Zz: Look. You know where all this is going. When you see how you and Trump are the same, you can more effectively work to change how you are different.

S:  Yeah. None of this is easy though.

Zz: The world is an incredible mess to be sure, but the hardest mess to change is your own, and you can’t do the first well until you have done the hard work of the other.

S:  That would seem to preclude doing anything at all—at least in my case.

Zz: Yeah, well, it’s not as cut and dry as I have said it. It’s moving forward with your mess—dialectically, as I think I’ve heard you say. I’m not sure what that means, but if it means living your mess forward, all tangled up and discombobulated, well then, I agree.


Scott:  The election of Trump represents the culmination of the horrible trajectory of human society as a whole. Ego-centrism lives! Race-centrism lives! Nationalism lives! Species-centrism lives! The primacy of the profit-motive lives! We will continue to destroy the planet in the name of “jobs” and profit. Corporations will continue to add to their power to direct and control the entirety of human society. The rich will get richer, and all institutions will be theirs. Their enforcers are militarized and empowered. The police-state grows, and yet remains well hidden. Only the few that protest feel its wrath, while the rest of us wave our flags and root for our team. “It’s the economy, stupid!” The suffering of others matters little!

Zhuangzi:  Yes, yes. So what’s the problem? You should have been born a peasant during the Warring States Period! I know one who lost his nose for stealing a turnip! In an untended field no less! Humanity is and has always been a mess. But still, it seems to be making some moral progress, don’t you think? Who knows?—maybe it will survive itself yet. As for the Universe, it couldn’t care less. The endangered bull frogs, now—they would care—if only they could!

S:  Yes. Okay. We always come back to this. Our caring can be tempered by a non-dependent openness to wellness. Even our cosmo-centrism can be so tempered. But let’s assume that we’ve experienced this and have some inner peace—at least to some degree—what do we do with our not-at-peace? How do we engage our caring now that it is informed of not-caring? How do we make our caring count? [Advertisement: http://wetipthebalance.org/]

Zz:  Ah, now that’s the hard part! Many say I’m weak on this point. And I guess I am; but when did I say I had all the “answers”? When did I say I had any “answers”? Isn’t that part of the problem? People want answers; they want formulae; they don’t want to have to work it out for themselves. And let’s face it, this is how they usually let themselves off the hook—“What can I do?”

S:   But you do give some broad strokes about how to proceed, don’t you?

Zz: Yes. I can share some of those. This is a pretentious little Zinfandel, but not without its own special statement. Is there more?


Scott:  Zhuangzi! You’re back! Just when I need some help figuring out how to respond to the election of Trump! Good grief!

Zhuangzi: Chill, Amigo! Are you forgetting how it doesn’t matter?

S:  I always forget how it doesn’t matter. I know, forgetting the unforgettable is true forgetfulness. But this seems to matter so much!

Zz:  You’re right, it does matter a lot—that’s why it’s so important to remember how it also doesn’t matter at all.

S:  Yeah, I know. It’s just so hard. How do you do it?

Zz:  Who ever said that I do!? I’m just working on it, same as you. But it helps just to entertain the possibility, don’t you think?

S:  Yeah, I get that. I just always want you to be a fully-realized guru.

Zz:  It seems everyone wants there to be gurus. You can bet that just because you’ve dreamed me up in your dream-world someone is going to believe I’m some sort of Immortal come down to grace your ridiculous blog. Talk about something that matters! I offer some ideas about how to live happily and before you know it, I’m an Immortal! Who knows, maybe your day will come. Ha. Ha.

S:  Not likely. I make it clear I’m a mess.

Zz:  And I didn’t? Well, maybe I should have been more explicit, like you. I just figured talking a lot of fantastic nonsense would be enough. Someone probably now believes in the literal flight of Peng.

S:  So, about Trump . . .?

Zz: Yeah, let’s talk Trump. But first, do you have something to wet my whistle? It’s thirsty work getting here from the Celestial Realms. Ha. Ha. A glass of that wine, perhaps?