A gray, overcast, rainy, chilly bleak last day of November here in northwestern Massachusetts. It makes it hard to get energized for the day's and week's work. I feel a bit flat, dispirited even. In general I am a rather optimistic person, but on certain days my usual good humor escapes me. It will come back, perhaps later today, but, for now, Chuang Tzu comes to mind
Once we happen into the form of this body, we cannot forget it. And so it is that we wait out the end. Grappling and tangling with things, we rush headlong toward the end, and there's not stopping it. It's sad, isn't it? We slave our lives away and never get anywhere, work ourselves ragged and never find our way home. How could it be anything but sorrow? People can talk about never dying, but what good is that? This form we have soon becomes others, and the mind vanishes with it. How could it be called anything but great sorrow? Life is total confusion. Or is it that I'm the only one who's confused? (Chapter 2, passage 3)
It seems to be a sad passage, reminding us of the futility of our worldly struggles and the inevitability of our end. But in making this point, by drawing our attention to our own limitations, Chuang Tzu is actually, slyly, opening up a possibility of liberation. When we apprehend the meaninglessness of many of our daily pursuits, we can then begin to understand what really has meaning in our lives: the immediacy of the present moment, the bedazzling diversity of human and natural experience, the infinitude of Way. It is only by embracing the ostensible sadness of our physical limitations that we can move toward happiness:
We're cast into this human form, and it's such happiness. This human form knows change, but the ten thousand changes are utterly boundless. Who could calculate the joys they promise!
And so the sage wanders where nothing is hidden and everything is preserved. The sage calls dying young a blessing and living long a blessing, calls beginnings a blessing and endings a blessing. We might make such a person our teacher, but there's something the ten thousand things belong to, something all change depends upon - imagine making that your teacher! (chapter 6, passage 2)
That "something" at the end there is, of course, Way. So, on a day like today, Chuang Tzu seems to be saying: make Way our teacher. And as I look out my window, the ridge line of the mountains to the West are enveloped with cloud and fog, making it almost impossible to discern where the solidity of the hilltop ends and the impermanence of the mist begins....
I should also mention that the original title for my book, Aidan's Way, was going to taken from the first Chuang Tzu passage above: The Form of this Body. The editor did not like the idea, however. He felt that The Form of this Body was too indistinct. But I have always liked it as a title, and I regret having lost the battle to have it on the book's cover. Because it is precisely the appreciation of physical limitation, and the liberation that that understanding can bring, that is Aidan's greatest gift to me....
Time to go and get on with "grappling and tangling with things..."
Cloudy Moutains, Mi Youren, ca. 1200