Wandering Far and Free
In the Northern Depths, there is a fish. Its name is Kun. Kun is big. I don't know, maybe three hundred miles long. He can change into a big bird called Peng. Peng's back, it's maybe three hundred miles long, too. In furious flight, he seems as if suspended among the clouds of Heaven. This bird, yeah, when he soars over the ocean, he migrates to the Southern Depths. The Southern Depths, that's Heaven's Pool, you know.
Mr. Altogether Harmonious, he used to keep records of weird stuff. He wrote: "Peng would migrate to the Southern Depths. His wings would slap the water for a thousand miles all around. His spiralling would cause storms for thirty thousand miles. He would fly for six months and then take a rest." Wild horses, dust, well -- all living things would rest after such an effort. And maybe brag to each other about it. The sky is gray and vast. Is that its real color? Isn't its remoteness and emptiness really weird? It reveals itself downwards, yeah? And then again, in principle, it seems already there, completely what it is.
So, if a man's accumulation of water isn't very deep, it won't do for him to go try and float a big boat in it. Dump a cup of water in a hole in your courtyard and a mustard seed will float there like a boat. Try to float the cup in there and it just sinks in the mud. The water is now shallow because the boat is big. Okay, and if the wind is not profound, it won't do to fly with big wings. So if we're talking thirty thousand miles, you need this wind underneath you and behind you, like the wind blowing out there today. It will carry you up into the blue sky without the slightest hindrance. After that, you'll just need a map to take you south.
A cicada and a finch were joking around: "I jump up and fly," said the cicada. "Shooting up towards an elm tree, most times I don't even get there. I just fall back to earth and that's all. Why should I even try to fly far away to the south?" If you travel into the mists for the space of three meals and come back, you're hardly hungrier than when you left. If you travel thirty miles into the mists, you'll need somewhere to stay and provisions of vitality. To go three hundred miles, you'll need three months of provisions. So what were these two little creatures thinking?
A little wisdom is not as good as deep wisdom. A small life is not as good as one fully-lived. So what if you know about a whole bunch of stuff? Morning mushrooms don't live from one month to the next. Cicadas born in the spring don't see autumn. These are small lives, yeah? In Southern Chu, there are Dark Coffin Trees for whom five hundred years is as a spring, five hundred years as an autumn. In ancient times, there were Trees of Heaven for whom eight thousand years was as a season. This is a life fully-lived, okay? If Grandfather Peng were alive today, his eight hundred years would make the news. But hearing it would just make ordinary people melancholy.
Rushing Current once talked about this stuff with Thorn Bush. North of Exhausted Utterance is a dark lake, Heaven's Pool, I think. In it is a fish, three hundred miles wide. No one knows how big it is but they call it Kun. There's a bird there too. They call him Peng and his back is like Mt. Tai. His wings are like the great clouds hanging in the heavens. He would spiral around, stirring up storms and stuff for thirty thousand miles in every direction, scattering the mists, holding up Heaven itself, and then head south. He would fly to the Southern Depths, yeah? The Swamp Chicken laughed and said, "What's a bird like that even good for? I bounce along and jump up. But I can only fly a few yards. Hovering among the daisies, that's all my flying is good for. So what am I good for?" This is our Small arguing with our Big.
Of old, men thought that one effective official would cause a province to reflect his example, that the proper goodness of one gentleman would unite a kingdom. Some think of themselves like this. But Song the Glorious would still laugh. Everyone might praise him. But he would advise no one. Everyone might blame him. But he would not stop. Calmly distinguish between inside and outside and the question of reputation is at an end. Those who go out in the world have not considered this correctly. People like this can't hold water, can't float a big boat. Mr. Every Boy could keep out of the world's way, going along perfectly like water flowing. In ten years, he didn't have five days of trouble. Those who flaunt their good fortune haven't yet considered this correctly. They avoid doing; so they don't go anywhere. Those who don't avail themselves of the principles of Heaven and Earth nor avoid discussions of outside influences are the ones who will cause harm. Old saying: "The realized man has no self, the unworldly man has no effect, the perfect man disappears altogether."
King Yao permitted all under Heaven to follow its original nature. He said, "Days and months pass. But the internal fire burns without cease. It grows brighter without difficulty. When rain comes, it waters all the fields. All grows moist without hard work. I remain still and everyone is governed. I am like a corpse, revealing almost nothing of myself. I engage the devotion of all under Heaven." Original Nature said, "If you govern all under Heaven, then already they have ceased governing themselves. And then I am just like a little replaceable thing. What will become of my reputation? I will just be a 'fruitful guest.' And if I become only a guest? A wren lives deep in the forest, but only on one branch. A rat drinks from a great river, but it fills his little belly. Return to substance, O King, and, egoless, be that which is used by all under Heaven." A cook may not be much good in the kitchen. But his corpse wouldn't even make a good wine rack.
Shouldering One's Burden was talking with Uncle Continuous and said, "I heard Publicly Received talk. He talked big but not to the point. His words wound around but never got anywhere. It was like the Milky Way poured out of his mouth. It was certainly different. But hardly reasonable." Uncle Continuous asked, "What did he talk about?" Shouldering One's Burden replied, "He said,
'On Spirit Archeress Mountain there lives a man of distinction. His body is like snow and ice. He is as charming as a virgin. He doesn't eat the five grains, breathes deeply, and keeps his heart cold. He avails himself of Heaven's spirit, harbors Earth's energy in his heart, and travels beyond all limitations. When he concentrates his spirit, the external world is without blemish and the harvest of his effort becomes fully ripe.'I think he's crazy and I don't believe him."
Uncle Continuous said, "Oh, sure. The blind have no use for books and the deaf, no use for music. And what if your whole person is blind and deaf? You should know. This man spoke correctly. Just like a virgin, yeah? This man he describes, through his goodness, becomes boundless until everything becomes one in unity. In our times, people seek disorder and are willing to harm everything under Heaven. This man harms no creature, is completely immersed in his learning more of Heaven, and indulges the self not at all. In times of want, his strength flows. He burns away mountains of the world's dust and never feels his own heat. Seeing dust as worthless, he becomes like Yao and Shun. Who would consent to mistake matter for the reality of things? A man from Song tried selling hats in Yue. But the people there shaved their heads and wore tatoos. What did they need a hat for? Yao governed everyone under Heaven, bringing peace to all. But he went to see the Four Sages of Spirit Archeress Mountain, north of the River Fen, and lost himself in that remoteness. Where was everyone under Heaven then?"
Kind Boy said to Farm Boy, "King Wu gave me a big gourd to plant. I planted it and each fruit could hold five hundred liters. I made one into a ladle but I was too weak to lift it. I stood there and thought about it. It was just too -- vast. I decided it was useless and broke it up." Farm Boy said, "My old master could use the Big. Some people in Song had a medicine for chapped hands. For ages they used it after washing and bleaching silk floss in cold water. A stranger heard about it and offered to buy the recipe for a million gold pieces. So their clan held a quick meeting where somebody said, "We've been washing silk floss forever and we're still not rich. Today we can sell our secret recipe and get lots of loot. Let's do it." The stranger bought the recipe and met with the King of Wu, who was having problems with Yue. The stranger talked his way into a generalship. It was winter and Yue attacked across the big, cold river. But the stranger defeated Yue, broke up their lands, and laid claim to them. If Wu's army had gotten chapped hands on the icy river, the stranger might not have done so well. Something made for silk might have a different use, yeah? If you have a five hundred liter gourd, couldn't you think it over, get a nice big jar of wine, and go floating on your gourd down the river? And maybe not worry about what a gourd should contain? Instead of imitating my old master, you have a mind of fluff."
Kind Boy said to Farm Boy, "I have a big tree. People call it the Tree of Heaven. Its trunk is gnarly and stupid. You couldn't use a carpenter's rule on it. Its dinky branches are all twisty. You couldn't use a carpenter's square on them. You could plant it in the middle of the street and no craftsman would give it a second look. Everyone says it's big and useless as they gather under it and stand around." Farm Boy said, "Have you never seen a raccoon dog? It crouches down and hides, waiting for dinner to wander by, and then it pounces. But it still ends its life in a trap or a net. People see a yak and think it's as big as a cloud. Okay, it's big. But it can't catch a mouse. If people have a big tree and worry about it being useless, why not plant it in the middle of nowhere. Don't hesitate. Let everything go where it will. Free yourself and take a nap under your tree. It's harmless. You can't use it. Just lie down underneath it and calm your nerves."