Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Book of Chuang Tzu, Chapter 10 — Read 2010.07.23

I stumbled onto this delightful translation of Chuang Tzu's Wandering on the Way in one of my local used book stores, Renaissance Books.

Chuang Tzu. The Book of Chuang Tzu. Toronto: Arkana (Penguin Books) 1996. Translators Martin Palmer and Elizabeth Breuilly with Chang Wai Ming. ISBN: 9780140455373.

I started reading it upon purchase, and finished it quickly. I am surprised at how well it stands beside my favourite translation of Chuang Tzu, Victor H. Mair's Wandering on the Way: Early Taoist Tales and Parables of Chuang Tzu. Toronto: Bantam Books, 1994.

I have been slowly re-reading it ever since then. It is filled with delightful criticism of intellectually accepted philosophical practices. As I have read Chuang Tzu in various translation more or less continuously for more than ten years, I am starting to see just how prescient is his social/philosophical criticism and commentary. With just the smallest leap in understanding, I now see that our age — which I find philosophically and spiritually enervating, and increasingly so — is being described in its failures by Chuang Tzu's description of the failures he observed in his time. Truly, there is nothing new in the fundamentals of man's social structures, regardless the technological toys extant. And my feeling of societal debilitation is not because of technological innovation! Rather, our uses and abuses of today's marvels of technology display and often amplify societal moral and philosophical immaturity and childish impatience and petulance.

I was 'forced' to create this blog entry when I realized that Chapter 11, 'Leaving the World Open,' describes the crumbling of our current society under the pressure of what I call flowcharted MBA-itis, and which Chuang Tzu calls 'controlling the world.'

What was to follow was to be an extended transcription of Chapter 11, interspersed with my commentary. But, when I went to do just that, much to my annoyance I had the idea that Chuang Tzu's ideas from Chapter 10 needed to go first, as a kind of introduction.

So,with my added commentary [in square brackets], here is Chuang Tzu's caution against the pursuit and use of 'knowledge':
If those in authority search for knowledge [Harvard MBAs and their emulators], but without the Tao [greed-based economic ethics supplants history, awareness of personal integrity and responsibility and delimits any 'vision' of the future beyond flow-charted manufactured/manipulated quarterly results], everything under Heaven will be in terrible confusion. How do I know this? A great deal of knowledge is needed to make bows, crossbows, nets, arrows and so forth [like earning that BBA/MBA/EMBA], but the result is that the birds fly higher in distress [the natural order of how to think about things becomes strained/distorted and is alienated from diurnal existence – psychologically birds can often represent thoughts/thinking. An example of such distorted thinking is the use of 'derivatives' as investment tools, and the recent 'asset-backed papers' scam.]. A great deal of knowledge is needed to make fishing lines, traps, baits and hooks, but the result is that the fish disperse in distress in the water [and, psychologically, fish represent food for the soul arising out from the psychological/spiritual unconscious. When people cut themselves off from spiritual food, they become unbalanced, and often seek it in something outside of themselves, be it fame, wealth, sex, drugs, alcohol. As to the latter, part of the AA cure for alcoholism is to accept that there is a spirituality in life outside of the bottle]. A great deal of knowledge is needed to make traps, snares and nets, but the result is that the animals are disturbed and seek refuge in marshy lands [that which feeds the human body and consciousness]. In the same way, the versatility needed to produce rhetoric, to plot and scheme, spread rumours and debate pointlessly, to dust off arguments and seek apparent agreement, is also considerable, but the result is that the people are confused. [No metaphorical interjection required here! Chuang Tzu could not be more precisely describing the role of 'specialists' to fix our troubles, be they economic, social, logistical.] So everything under Heaven is in a state of distress, all because of the pursuit of knowledge. Every[one] in the world knows how to seek for knowledge that they do not have, but do not know how to find what they already know. Every[one] in the world knows how to condemn what they dislike, but do not know how to condemn what they have that is wrong. This is what causes such immense confusion. It is as if the brightness of the sun and moon had been eclipsed above, while down below the hills and streams have lost their power, as though the natural flow of the four seasons had been broken. [This brought to mind the events of my experience of being locked out of my employment for five months so that the CEO could break the union, and for which he received in excess of fourteen million dollars in salary, bonuses and share options. And, now a Canadian first, the threat of a massive political recall of elected officials that was organized by someone not even in office!] There is no humble insect, not even any plant, that has not lost its innate nature. [Honeybee hive collapse and threat by mites; Monsanto and GM foods; the addition of hormones and antibiotics into animal feeds and injections.] This is the consequence for the world of seeking after knowledge. From the Three Dynasties down to the present day it has been like this. The good and honest people are ignored, while spineless flatterers are advanced. [Recent bank bailouts concomitantly with tens, and perhaps even hundreds of thousands of American citizens are being thrown out of their homes; the failure of the USA to rebuild New Orleans, while they spend billions fighting a no-win war. (I suggest to everyone to watch Michael Moore's 'Capitalism: A love Story.' It is is filled with fascinating examples of economic and social failure in the USA, while the ultra-rich are praised for being members to a 'plutonomy' deserving special status. See Citibank's proud memo that describes the us/them world order for the ultra-rich at] The quiet and calm of action-less action is cast aside and pleasure is taken in argument. It is this nonsense which has caused such confusion for everything under heaven (p79-80).
My next blog — or maybe the one or two after that, will be of Chapter 11.

No comments:

Post a Comment