This post is inspired by reflections on Zhuangzi and philosophy in a reading group I participated in during Fall 2020 with three of my colleagues.
Oh no! A being, plopped into the world, forced to make sense of it, to choose how to live, act, think, and be. What to do?! What to pay attention to?! Where to look, where to turn the head, focus the eyes?! What in the world to do with this stream of informational input?! What is this world?! What is me?! What chaos! Can Zhuangzi help? Maybe he can’t help us sort out our mess of conceptual confusions and determine what is true, and what it is to make sense of things, and what it all means, and what we should do. But I think he might be able to point us in the right direction (or, away from the wrong one).
Introduction: Where should I begin?
We must begin at the beginning. Stories are like that, language is like that, we are like that. We simply must pick a place to start, if we want to say anything at all. So where should I begin? Nature itself doesn’t seem to provide clear and determinate boundary lines, so why should I? Perhaps I should just stay silent, since no starting point seems privileged. I am paralyzed by my indecision. And yet… I have stories to tell. Questions to ask. Things to say (I think). And even if no starting point for telling these stories is objectively correct, the place from which we choose to begin is not arbitrary - it makes sense to us.