Master Ch’i1 of Southwall buries himself at his desk, and while sitting there, drifting in the sky, he sighs out an answer, as though he’d lost his partner. Master Yu2 of Fullface, standing there in front of him, says: What in life?!? Can you make the body like rotten logs? and can you make the mind like dead embers? —This man burying himself at his desk is not the former man buried at his desk. Master Ch’i says: Ah Yen,3 isn’t it nice that you asked me that? Now this man, I, lost me. You understand? You’ve heard the pipes of men, but you haven’t heard the pipes of earth; or you’ve heard the pipes of earth, but you haven’t heard the pipes of heaven! Master Yu says: May I ask what this means? Master Ch’i says: The Great Clod belches out air, and this comes to be named Wind. True, only absence is created. But when it’s created, ten thousand holes shout in a rage! And can you only hear its whoosh: liao liao? The mountain forest! That awe-striking elegance! Great trees a hundred spans in circumference! Those holes and caverns! They’re like noses, like mouths, like ears, like eyesockets, like cups, like bowls; they’re like wells, they’re like brackwater: they surge, they clamor, they cry, they gasp, they roar, they boom, they gnash; the first ones sing Wah! the next ones sing Ho! If it’s a gentle breeze, then it’s a small harmony; if it’s a burgeoning gale, then it’s a great harmony. Then, the fierce winds having crossed the river, the legions of holes become empty. —And can you only see its music: diao diao, its intricate diao diao? Master Yu says: So the pipes of the earth, then, are the legions of holes; correspondingly, the pipes of men, then, are bamboo flutes; may I ask about the pipes of the heavens? Master Ch’i says: The heavens play the multitude, each one alone and each one creating themselves. All take hold of themselves; and their tempers, they are theirs; so who is the bewitching wind?
Big knowledge is inaccessible and idle;
small knowledge is trifling and idle.
Big talk is just flaring up;
small talk is just chatting up.
When they fall asleep, their souls mingle.
When they wake up, their bodies unfold,
meetings and gatherings become tainted,
and every day their minds clash.
They are threadbare, so they are covered and they are secretive.
Their small fears are an anxious anxiety;
their big fears are a threadbare bareness.
They shoot like the mechanism of a crossbow as they direct the pronouncement of true and false. They stay put like a sworn covenant as they guard the triumph of their pronouncement. They’re killed like autumn by winter, as with speeches their days melt away. They drown that by which they will evolve, unable to make use of what is regained. They are stuffed like sealed letters, as with speeches they prolong their confusion. Near death—as their minds are unable to make use of the regained yang. Smiles and rage, grief and joy, worrying and appreciating, shifting and inaction, elegance and debauchery, edifying and posing: all this music from bullshit steam ends up as fungus.
—Day and night, in succession, are supplanted! We float onward, yet without knowing the one from which they sprout!
—Stop it! Stop it! Dawn and dusk must do this: the one which causes the other, so too is born.
A man follows the mind he’s given, the teacher he’s given, so who is alone and without a teacher? Why need one know every unraveling, and this same mind take every thing and grasp it, those things the birdbrains hand out? Our mind’s grasp, how is it not yet complete? Having this mind, and yet grasping for true and false, is to this day have left for Viet4 and yesterday arrived. This truth: by this, not grasping becomes grasping. —Not grasping becomes grasping? Even the all-grasping sacred Yu, he can’t understand this; and I alone, how would I? Words are not breath! To word it is to grasp the words. That which is worded, the specifics of that thing aren’t determined. Grasping the fruit of words? is this not grasping the taste of words? By this they become differentiated from the sound of chicks, but can you really grasp the distinction? Are they not distinguished? The Tao: how is it obscured, and we grasp for the real and the fake? Words: how are they obscured, and we grasp for the true and the false? The Tao: how does it leave us, and not abound? Words: how do they abound, and yet be incapable? The Tao: it’s obscured by little accomplishments; words: they’re obscured by lush floweriness. Thereby the graspings of scholastics5 and Moists6, their true and false, make the true the basis of the false, and the false the basis of the true. We want the true to be the basis of the false, and the false to be the basis of the true—but then, if no longer, we’d become illumined.
Long ago, Chuang Chou dreamed he became a butterfly, happy as an oakleaf just as a butterfly is, aware of himself, following the will he was given. He didn’t know he was Chou. Suddenly he’s awake. Then, indistinguishably as a weed, he’s just as Chou is. He doesn’t know if it’s Chou that dreamed he became a butterfly? if it’s a butterfly that dreamed he became Chou? If Chou’s a butterfly, then necessarily he has a distinct being. It is this that is called the world of becoming.