Recent mysterious scientific discoveries have finally confirmed the existence of “dark energy” – the energy, predicted by Einstein but counterintuitive to what we understand about reality, that is able to explain why the Universe is expanding at an accelerating rate. It turns out that dark energy actually composes 74% of the known Universe, with “dark matter” (matter that does not interact with visible light and is therefore imperceptible to humans) making up 22% and the remaining matter that we hitherto understood as the actual “stuff” that composed “reality” accounting for only 4% of what we perceived to be real.
So Lao Tzu was right in acknowledging the wisdom of dark energy over 25 centuries ago. In fact, the gifted translator Red Pine asserts (in his highly recommended version of the Taoteching) that ol’ boy Lao intended for his now famous treatise to be nothing less than an exhortation to emulate the new, dark moon. So within this context I’ve sat down to pick through The Book of Chuang Tzu (also known as Zhuangzi and other various spellings just so we’re clear). Apparently there are 3 heavyweights in the Taoist tradition: Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu and Lieh Tzu. Lao Tzu and Lieh Tzu are considered the more sober characters, both encouraging us not to go to extremes in anything so as to train our senses and offering bits that can be interpreted by most as legal or governmental advice. Chuang Tzu on the other hand, in addition to being the only historically verifiable character of the three, was famous for being rowdy, hated Confucians with a passion and advised going with the flow wherever it took you (and not necessarily preaching any sort of temperance at all – just wisdom and insight along the way). I’m only about 60 pages in and I have to say its generally one of the most obtuse texts I’ve read in a while but occasionally there’s a gem and I’ve been jotting down some of Chuang Tzu’s best lines:
“Heaven and Earth and I were born at the same time, and all life and I are one.”
“By the light shining out of chaos, the sage is guided; he does not make use of distinctions but is led on by the light.”
“The sage encompasses everything, while ordinary people just argue about things. This is why I say that disagreement means you do not understand at all.”
“Emptiness is the fasting of the heart.”
“The great Master said, ‘Precisely! I’ll tell you. Go and join this man in his cage, but don’t set out to impress him. If he comes to like you, then you may sing for him. If he will not listen, keep quiet. Do not appear to be an open door, nor seek to be a balm. Be at one with all his house and learn to bear what cannot be changed. Do this, and you might almost be successful.”
“If you look at things in terms of their difference, then the liver and gall are as different as the states of Chu and Yueh; however, study them from the perspective of their sameness, and all life is one.”
“The Crooked Man with No Lips offered advice to Duke Ling of Wei, who greatly appreciated his words of advice, so much so that he thought ordinary people had backs too straight and lips too big. (Obviously the brilliance here is simply the man named ‘The Crooked Man with No Lips.’ Note the upcoming ‘Toeless’ as well).
“Toeless told his story to Lao Tzu, saying, ‘Confucius has definitely not become a perfect man yet, has he? So why does he try to study with you? He seems to be caught up with the search for honor and reputation, without appearing to understand that the perfect man sees these as chains and irons.’ Lao Tzu said, ‘Why not help him see that death and birth are one thing and that right and wrong are one thing, and so free him from the chains and irons?’”
“Heaven gives you a form and you wear it out by pointless argument!”
“The words of broken people come forth like vomit. Wallowing in lust and desire, they are but shallow in the ways of Heaven.”
“The noble who cannot harmonize the good and the destructive is not a scholar.”
“The cosmos gives me the burden of a physical form, makes life a struggle, gives me rest in old age and peace in death. What makes life good, therefore, also makes death good.”
The martial arts have long appreciated the utility and power of dark, “yin” energy in order to achieve success in combat, and no crew has understood and harnessed this energy to the extent of the legendary Wu-Tang Clan. From the island enclave of Shaolin, this crew of Taoist disciples has risen to create a global empire of beats, style and philosophy. As we examine the crucial text of Chuang Tzu, it is only right to lend our attention as well to this rare 1991 interview courtesy of NYC’s public access channel of cousins GZA, ODB and RZA. Please note as well the intriguing presence of the one and only Allah Mathematics dressed out in Michigan blue and gold, who refuses to even raise his head, much less participate in the interview. In this regard if my man is not the perceptible manifestation of dark matter caught on camera, well I don’t know what is. Nuff respect. Plus check GZA’s sick freestyle!