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January 20, 2009


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If, for the Stoics, fate can be known through reason, then ZZ is far, far from Stoicism. When you ask, "how does one know what to do in any given situation?", ZZ would respond, we cannot know, no one can know. We have to give up knowing and just open ourselves to Way. ZZ has a powerful critique of conscious knowledge. And it is in that sense that he also wards us away from emotion. Emotion can distract us from Way. Yes, emotions are naturally a part of Way but, like knowledge, if we dwell on them too long (and I think ZZ means that interval to be rather short), they become unnatural. We become overwrought. I think that sort of detachment allows for an ultimate "joy," a joy that arises from not allowing our emotions to rule us, as here in ZZ:

"Birth and death, living and dead, failure and success, poverty and wealth, honor and dishonor, slander and praise, hunger and thirst, hot and cold - such are the transformations of this world, the movements of its inevitable nature. They keep vanishing into one another before our very eyes, day in and day out, but we'll never calibrate what drives them. So how can they steal our serenity, how can they plunder the spirit's treasure-house? If you let them move together, at ease and serene, you'll never lose your joy. And if you do this without pause, day in and day out, you'll invest all things with spring." (75)

We could easily add love and hate to the list above. And, then, of course there is passage 5 from the Tao Te Ching that tells us:

Heaven and Earth are Inhumane
They treat the ten thousand things like straw dogs.

It's hard out there and too much emotional attachment, of whatever emotion, is not in keeping with Heaven and Earth.

Let me say in all of this I am not presenting what I want the texts to say (I am personally more open to emotional attachment and the beauty it can create). But when I read ZZ and the TTC (DDJ) it seems to me that both are warding us off emotional attachment. Indeed, I think this could be a failing of Taoism generally, opening it to what I consider misuses, as when Han Fei Tzu appropriates a Taoist image of Way.

Early Chinese authors do have their standard lists of "passions" (often six in number) and discuss or relate these separately from faculties like "knowing". They seem to have recognized "passion" and "knowing" as different kinds of faculty, though they do not make this a driving issue in epistemology in the Hellenic fashion. As Graham pointed out, Daoists appear to denigrate *both* as sources of guidance.

That the Daoists jointly reject the passions and knowing probably relates to their suspicion of the human as against the heavenly. (I will never use "natural" to translate 天, though "heavenly" to the sinologically unacquainted is even more misleading.) They rehearse the heaven/man distinction a great deal, and working definitions/examples abound. (Mengzi: what happens though none does it = heavenly; Primitivist: bridled vs. unbridled horses...) Only in the Inner Chapters of Zhuangzi have I seen critique and possible rejection of the distinction. Incidentally I don't accept a unitary-author thesis for the Inner Chapters, at least automatically, and I don't see it as imperative that we fuse the skeptical/relativist views and the more absolutist views into a single inevitably unstable picture. (Though that effort has been a godsend for publication volume.)

The Zhuangzi authors frequently evince more friendliness to emotion (and confusion, and play, and many other things) than do Stoics, but the connection is real: both groups think that there is something distorting about everyday emotional relationships and attachments. One difference is that the Zhuangzi authors think emotion is distorting for the same reason "knowing" is: it represents an imposition by man on the heavenly. That is, when they are not casting away this entire framework, and with it most of what we recognize as "Daoism".

Sam and Stephen,

Those were really thought-provoking comments-- thank you! You maybe both noticed that I have a personal fascination with the man I call My Lover the Emperor... before Adonis was born, I spent maybe 4 years reading nothing but song dynasty history-- mainly in japanese, but everything I could get my hands on in english (with a few translations into english of french and italian books). In all that reading, I never really hit upon any major gaps in perspectives-- just there is so much more information available in japanese and the breadth in terms of style and readership was also much greater on the japanese side.

Nobody does the song dynasty like the japanese...

Switching into more ancient times and switching again to philosophy, though, I just do not know enough to really say much of anything valuable... except maybe to offer a guess that it would not surprise me to see gaps in points of view (with the understanding that neither has it Right-- though some perspectives could be closer than others).

Looking at Stephen's 天-- Stephen, my man, you are so strident about not translating 天 as nature or natural and yet, I was not doing so. I was translating 命 as natural vis-a-vis 天命。

Japanese doesn't necessarily need to translate since 天 is 天 in both languages. However, that japanese thinkers would tend to see this concept in terms of nature 自然 and that english thinkers would in terms of heavenly... kind of makes sense doesn't it, given the cultural context of each country?

Just out of curiosity, though, Stephen, how would you gloss your "heavenly"

Another curious point is subjects. In your "what happens though none does it" what is the subject of the sentence? Out of context, I would read that as 無為自然 but maybe you are talking about the correct course of action for men?

You could be right regarding love-- how do I know? I am not a Huizi's wife.

However.... another point of interest for me was how you all tended to "read" that passage as a recommendation toward non-attachment in terms of loving relations. This was not how I read it nor is that the point given in the several japanese commentaries I looked at (I would need to look a lot harder to really make a valid point... but when I read the passage I read it as nothing more than a grieving man's decision to look on the bright side-- that death too is natural. That his beloved wife had returned to Nature and that this is not a negative situation → 「楽天的な人間観」.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I still haven't seen a categorical call to detachment-- rather I am reading a very commonsensical recommendation to remember that life is change. That nature abhors a vacuum.... and speaking of which, Stephen, is it my imagination or does your viola da gamba bow-hold need some work?? :)
(I want to hear your gloss on 天 too-- see you on FB!)

Oh and I hope you both are in for Fingarette too!

My reading of the passage is similar to Peony's. I wonder if part of the problem here (for me anyway) is understanding what "detachment" means. It's a loaded and highly vague term. Just as much as I don't think "wu-wei" means not to act, or not to think (but rather to think and act in non-obsessive or grasping ways), I would think of the call to detached emotion in the same way. Not to cease to feel it, but to assure that the way in which one feels emotion does not overwhelm in the sense that one projects "grasping and obsessiveness" onto the situation.

I think what we are getting here is not a call to detach from loving relations, but to rather rethink what it means to have a loving relation. I think there are certain ways of having loving relationships that fail to remain "open" to change, that are fixated on "purpose" or "function" or even "use". In this passage, my reading is that Zhuangzi is calling our attention to the need to move beyond such "limitations" on how things (relationships, partly) must be. After al, Tao is empty, right?

Oh -- and I second the call to join the Fingarette group! The more the merrier! Not that I am fixated here on what size group makes for a good discussion. Tao is empty.

What Zhuangzi seems to be reacting against in this passage is the idea that the love, ai 愛, one has for one's spouse is something that should be expressed upon his/her passing through some long, elaborate ritual of grief and mourning, a la the Confucians. His own self-described lament for his wife, I think, was sharp but relatively short. And maybe this reads too much modern psychology into the text--but he seems then to have turned to the question of his grief. The grief might be channeled into ritual so that it gradually dissolves into memory--or better yet, for Confucians, memorials. Alternatively, I think, Zhuangzi suggests that grief dissolves into acceptance when we tend to the larger perspective on life and death as an impersonal process. Anger at the process, when the latter is impersonalized, makes no sense to us because it can't get any traction on something as the agent of death and hence of our loss. If there is an echo of Stoicism in that, it has to be read through Spinoza's version.

None of this, as far as I can tell, recommends emotional detachment or control, just a type of cognitive therapy.

An aside: I don't know that what Dido felt for Aeneas is accurately described as ai 愛; the tale of Eros, injecting "the fire of love (eros)" into Dido suggests something different.

Hi Manyul,

So, I had this dream last night. I was sitting at my computer (right here in this very room) having a chat on Facebook with Chris-- it was just like ZZ's Butterfly dream-- because now, how do I know that I am a woman sitting at the computer writing this response and not dreaming I am a woman sitting at this computer writing this response? Really. It begs a lot of questions!

But I will be back after I get the Kid to school to try and write down what I dreamt. Now, that I finally know where I am going aout Dido...

In the meantime.... regarding my very favorite scene of little cupid sitting for what seemed like hours injecting Dido with love (love like wafts of incense)... well, if you remove the Christian agape/eros dichotemy-- what do you have but 愛? How do you say eros in Chinese? In japanese commonly one says 愛(の神)、性愛(の神)、恋愛(の神)、
Do you have that concept of 恋 in Chinese and Korean? To me, Dido felt nothing but 愛 for Aeneas-- granted it was very hot and desirous. But isn't that the best kind of 愛? I mean really. I am not even sure if this is just a Japanese concept but 恋 seems to me just a tentatively kind of liking... plus attraction. Boyfriends/girlfriends/lovers are called 恋人... which sounds very cute to my ears: koi-bito. But no, eros is nothing if not 愛 (it's just not agape??) This I will fight to the death about too. :)

What do you think???
Speaking of which.. how have you been liking the dancing?

Manyul, I would be interested to learn abut the Chinese 愛... thinking about it more as I walked Adonis to school, even in modern Japanese, unless you are talking about "Christian Love" or Buddhist concepts (which is where the 愛 comes from in Japanese originally, I think...?) "I love you" 愛していますよ is pretty private and I would call it something said in the bedroom. Like you could not say "I love you" to your child or to a friend.

The classical poets did not use that word in their love poetry-- instead using words like burning, the dew as a symbol of the sadness of sleeping alone or the one I wrote about on the Sheik's blog 染みる. 

Or in the movies: Isn't the moon beautiful? But that perhaps means everything from I'm starting to think I like you to I really love you.

No matter how you think about it-- Dido loved (愛)Aeneas!

On this note, I am uploading to my blog some poems that I translated in grad school which are pobably the only occurance in Japanese literature of love poems a man wrote for his...... wife. Perveresely fascinated with the possibilty-- I took them up only to learn that there is a school of thought regarding this very famous pair that he was the actual cause of her insanity (she went totally mad at the end). Marital love as a path for insanity unto death...? In any case, even in their case it was 愛 and 恋。 You can see some of the poems in the 智恵子抄 link above...

ZZ is all about acceptance....


For the Sheik:








Peony dreams she is a butterfly:

Last night, I dreamt that I was sitting here in this warm room having a FB chat with Chris. But instead of typing I was speaking aloud to the monitor and was writing everything down with big white quill pen -- not unlike a court reporter I was trying to make sure that nothing would ever be lost.

In the dream I was concerned that Chris had not followed what I meant when I left this comment at his place a few days ago about "wuwei as lifestyle choices"

I asked him, "I wonder, if you saw where I was trying to go with this?"

Chris was talking about ddj 63, and like him I see this is all about embodied living. However in our discussions here and there
it just inevitably seems to come across like some kind of _mental_ stance (a rational approach or commitment).

But what I was trying to say in my comment was that it's not like a person can just say: I am going to live day-by-day. Or I am going to be detached. Because really these are all life habits recommendations-- embodied habits (which the philosophers are basing perhaps on phenomenological reasons) and so to my mind this somehow needs to be distinguished from more purely philosophcal concepts like Buddhist detachment or non-action (which also uses the same kanji 無為)....

because the Buddhist concepts-- as well as the Stoic ones-- are not habits per se but very mental and conscious ways of thinking about issues (though they can reflected in habits later). Does that make sense?

When I look at ddj 63-- I see more something like the illumination of exemplery *lifestyle habits*-- so in that way, if a person is always racing around in their car, how would they ever really attain this being in the moment? Or if someone
was overly focused on the perfect performance of mourning rituals, how would that be in harmony with this idea of 無為自然...

Chris, you can probably guess why I love the Japanese expression since it is not that people are to be wuwei but rather that their habits or embodied way of living is to reflect _the wuwei world_ (wuwei lichtung??)

In the Japanese literature again and again it is the "wuwei world" that people are to come into harmony with through this realization that it is a wuwei world.... so in this way, it does not (to my way of thinking) involve any kind of emotional detachment.

Emotions wash over us constantly and I am wondering if it is not the mental dwelling on (or thinking too much) our emotions is
dangerous.. not the feeling of them-- what do you think?

What else is obsession but emotion plus thinking too much in terms of dwelling?

So, Dido-- Chris, what's it gonna be? I am in complete agreement with your comment above-- but are you saying that you find Dido to be grasping and obsessive?

And why is no one commenting on the water ballet?? Is it just me..??

I love the water ballet!
I also got a huge kick out of Mark Morris dancing the part of Dido. (Didn't Gawain say that Dido was the guy in the relationship?)

Hey MW!!

I am so glad you spoke up! I've been watching other videos of Mark Morris' stuff and it's all pretty interesting. Did you listen to the words of the one above? See that is my motto :)

Yes, Gawain I think said something like "Dido was the real man in the package."

Adonis still won't tolerate the Mozart CD. I put it on again last night and immediately he muttered "mata" (again??) He really seems to love beethoven... and also Brahms too.

Hope you are enjoying the snow. It was supposed to snow here-- but instead just very very cold rain.

Yes, water ballet; lovely. The "land" ballet is lovely too.

To attend to Peony's questions about ai 愛, agape, eros, and love: My sense of ai in early Chinese literature is that it is actually more like agape--along with philia. Lian 戀 (恋, simplified) along with perhaps se 色 captures the sense of eros much better. Ai seems very much reserved in Classical Chinese for these two sense:

1) kindly attachment and affection (sort of like philia and agape); benevolence, if the direction of hierarchy in the relationship is right


2) fondness; or in the verbal sense, to fancy (sort of like hao 好, in the Classical sense)

I can't call to mind any instances of ai that I've come across that connote the type of longing and lustfully urgent desire that eros suggests.

Or maybe you think that's too narrow a rendering of eros? Maybe. I think the broad outlines of what I'm saying are right at least.

Afterthought: The meaning of agape isn't determined by its use in Christianity. So, I don't think that's a factor here.

I might sound confident, but I'm happy, as always, to be set straight.

Hi Manyul!

Well, you didn't say I had to respond to Dido's ai 愛 in terms of pre-Qin sources!!!! In modern japanese her response would probably be rendered as 恋愛(amor) which is the word, by the way, that Kotaro used to describe his love for his wife in the Chieko poems. I know what you mean that 愛 alone sounds very Buddhist-- like a universal kind of love of humanity, versus a falling in love 恋に落ちる (which has just gotta be a direct importation into english of falling in love) Put it this way, if Dido and Aeneas were speaking in Japanese to each other, it is very, very likely when they were alone she would say 愛していますよ。 However, what they would say in pre-qin Chinese is another question-- a question I leave to you!!

The broad outline of what your saying mkes perfect sense too (as you always do make perfect sense).... I guess you are implying that her love was in fact almost like a "falling ill" →"falling down" →"falling in love" That is pure 恋。

You know, I like to think of them in the palace overlooking sea, drinking wine in a cloud of sexy perfume and speaking Japanese to a each other. The image is pretty adorable...

Speaking of "adorable," Manyul, have you ever read a Lover's Discourse. My favorite fragment is adorable... but this must say something to Dido?

absence / absence
Any episode of language which stages the absence of the loved object -- whatever its cause and its duration -- and which tends to transform this absence into an ordeal of abandonment.

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