SHIFTING GOALS AND THE DISCOVERY OF CHUANG TZU, 4TH CENTURY BC


I have been unable to articulate this thought till I came across it in CHUANG-TZU, A Classic of Tao, excellently translated and explicated by AC Graham. Graham’s phrase that started me going was: “the sage’s fluid and temporarily emerging goals are the ones to which he spontaneously tends when he mirrors heaven and earth with perfect clarity, and that is sufficient reason for preferring them to any goals to which he might incline in ignorance.”

TWO THINGS: First, I am so very happy to discover Chuang Tzu, am tremendously grateful to AC Graham for making him available, and adore the subtitle of the book: The Inner Chapters. The book was given to us by a wandering English Man, Simon, who unexpectedly showed up at our mountain home door with two or three boxes of books, just the kind I read and love to own. This is a story in itself, not to be told here. Chuang Tzu was among them, and I have Payson to thank for pulling it out of the stack a few months ago. I started reading as an exercise — I go through periods where I’m quite lazy and don’t want my brain taxed in any way — and then I have to set myself tasks/goals: I’ll read just one chapter of this or this article. I have been reading bits and pieces of it here and there. Though I have always been drawn to Taoism, I had never heard of him.

Second, it articulated for me one of the ways in which I want to live in the last third of my life, with fluid and temporarily shifting goals. What does this mean to me? In a simple sense, listening to my body and brain and acting accordingly. Now I want to do this, don’t to want to do that, that feels like too much work, this is the perfect thing to do now. Is is a great, the greatest way to be. It is, in Chuang Tzu phrase, “Roaming Freely in the Cage.”

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