Throughout each of Zhuangzi's passages, one can find the theme of life as is. It resonates voices that work on understanding and embracing life, as well as accepting that which is left unknown. The tone of each passage is direct as it is blunt, yet indirect in that it feels lighthearted. These passages act as parables; they are not upsetting tales.
Questions for Dreamers, Unanswerable by All
Part One, Inspired by Passage 2
1. If the enjoyment of life is a delusion, then are we miserable in truth?
2. Are those ever-attempting to achieve happiness damned to lives of unrelievable pain?
3. Is there any way to find some semblance of meaning, to peek through these curtains of fog?
4. Where is the outlet for those disillusioned few, who have tired of this discontent?
5. When we were young, were we aware of this world’s truths? Were we able to laugh in the face of death’s coffee-tainted expirations?
6. When did this life become home? When did the newly-formed begin to forget the rest, until this life became all they could know? An evolution of sorts, I suppose. Though is this truly the best way to cope?
7. I wonder if we will turn like flowers to the sun, when death returns in its earthly form ... does a cloud of enlightenment follow, thick like industrial-age smog?
8. Will we regret time spent in fear of what could possibly become? Time wasted, too afraid to weather the eye of an unforgiving storm.
9. If fools think they are awake, then what am I when made aware during a dream-like state?
10. Can any being make me aware of a state beyond the one I know?
11. Will death provide clarity or shall it plunge us further into a cycle of unknowns?
I Dream a Dream of Unreality
Part Two, Inspired by Passage 3
What is my truth if I dream of neither life nor fantasy? For I dream of nothing a rational person would be glad to relive. I may be glad to own thousands, if not millions of books, but when those books line shelves which circle sinkholes in the earth, am I still glad to be standing with them? And when I have gained independence, only to be followed by wolves, am I still proud to travel the world?
To be aware of myself, in the midst of a dream, coats the state with an unpleasant fear. When I wake to find that a world was unreal, I am confused as to the reality of it all. Could she, the me in my dreams, not be a valid being in some upside down world? Am I me, or am I she? The dream. The dreamed. The dreamer. Is there any distinction? Perhaps this is the transformation of things.
This piece was originally written for a class on ecological aesthetics. I have shared other works from that portfolio as well. Here are a few resources if you wish to further explore Zhuangzi, or the famous butterfly parable upon which I based Part One.