Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Passage from Chuang Tzu

drawing by marguerita - Divertimento

When Chuang Tzu was going to Ch'u he saw by the roadside a skull, clean and bare,but with every bone in its place. Touching it gently with his chariot-whip he bent over it and asked it saying, " Sir, was it some insatiable ambition that drove you to transgress the law and brought you to this ?Was it it the fall of a kingdom,the blow of an executioner's axe that brought you to this? Or had you done some shameful deed and could not face the the reproaches of father and mother, of wife and child , and so were brought to this? Was it hunger and cold that brought you to this, or was it that the springs and autumns of your span had in due course carried you to this?
Having thus addressed the skull, he put it under his head as a pillow and went to sleep. At midnight the skull appeared to him in a dream and said to him, " All that you said to me- your glib, commonplace chatter- is just what I should expect from a live man, showing as it does in every phrase a mind hampered by trammels from which we dead are entirely free. Would you like to hear a word or two about the dead?
' I certainly should,' said Chuang Tzu.
" Among the dead,'said the skull,' none is king, none is subject, there is no division of the seasons; for us the whole world is spring, the hole world is autumn. No monarch on his throne has joy greater than ours.'
Chuang Tzu did not believe this.'Suppose,' he said, 'I could get the Clerk of Destinies to make your frame anew, to clothe your bones once more with flesh and skin, send you back to father and mother, wife and child, friends and home, I do not think you would refuse.'
A deep frown furrowed the skeleton's brow. 'How can you imagine,' it asked, ' that I would cast away joy greater than that of a king upon his throne, only to go back again to the toils of the living world ?'

from Three Ways of Thought in Ancient China
Arthur Wiley

No comments: