I'm not just writing for my own edification, as I will soon be retiring and I think it would be nice if I could augment my pension through a little extra income. To that end, I won't just be offering it for free like my other writing projects. I'm new to publishing, however, so I thought it might be a good idea to ask my readers what they think. I'm going to give a sample of the book plus a couple questions. I'd like responses, either in the comments on the blog or through direct email to "email@example.com".
“I thought you were a ghost, but when I looked more closely I saw that you are a man. May I ask if you have a special way for treading the water?
“No, I have no special way. I began with what was innate, grew up with my nature, and completed my destiny. I enter the very centre of the whirlpools and emerge as a companion of the torrent. I follow along with the way of the water and do not impose myself on it. That's how I do my treading.”
“What do you mean by 'began with what was innate, grew up with your nature, and completed your destiny'?” asked Confucious.
“I was born among these hills and feel secure among them---that's what's innate. I grew up in the water and feel secure in it---that's my nature. I do not know why I am like this, yet that's how I am---that's my destiny.”
(Zhuangzi, “Outer Chapters”, “Understanding Life”, Section Eight, Victor Mair trans.)
“The ultimate man can walk under water without drowning, can tread upon fire without feeling hot, and can soar above the myriad things without fear. May I ask how he achieves this?”
“It's because he guards the purity of his vital breath,” said Director Yin, “it's not a demonstration of his expertise or daring.
He goes on to give a revealing example.
“If a drunk falls from a carriage, even if it is going very fast, he will not die. His bones and joints are the same as those of other people, but the injuries he receives are different. It's because his spirit is whole. He was not aware of getting into the carriage, nor was he aware of falling out of it. Life and death, alarm and fear do not enter his breast. Therefore, he confronts things without apprehension. If someone who has gotten his wholeness from wine is like this, how much more so would one be who gets his wholeness from heaven! The sage hides within his heavenly qualities, thus nothing can harm him...”(Zhuangzi, “Understanding Life”, Part Two, Mair trans)
Yen Yűan inquired of Confucius,saying,
”When I was crossing the gulf of Goblet Deep, the ferryman handled the boat like a spirit. I asked him about it, saying, 'Can handling a boat be learned?' 'Yes', said he, 'good swimmers can learn quickly. As for divers, they can handle a boat right away without ever having seen one.' I asked him why this was so, but he didn't tell me. I venture to ask what you think he meant.”
“A good swimmer can learn quickly because he forgets about the water,” said Confucius. “As for a diver being able to handle a boat right away without ever having seen one, it's because he regards the watery depths as if they were a mound and the capsizing of a boat as if it were the rolling back of a carriage. Capsizing and rolling back could unfold a myriad times before him without affecting his heart, so he is relaxed wherever he goes.”
“He who competes for a piece of tile displays all of his skill; he competes for a belt buckle gets nervous; he who competes for gold gets flustered. His skill is still the same, but there is something that distracts him and causes him to focus on externals. Whoever focuses on externals will be clumsy inside.”(Zhuangzi, “Understanding Life”, Part Three, Mair trans)
A martial arts student went to his teacher and said earnestly, “I am devoted to studying your martial system. How long will it take me to master it.”
The teacher’s reply was casual, “Ten years.” Impatiently, the student answered, “But I want to master it faster than that. I will work very hard. I will practice everyday, ten or more hours a day if I have to. How long will it take then?”
The teacher thought for a moment, “20 years.”