LYRIC COMPANY Zhuangzi “Courses are formed by someone walking them”

In chapter 2 of the Zhuangzi ( The Essential Writings with Selections from Traditional Commentaries, translated by Brook Zyporyn, Hackett, 2009), after reading about the paradox of the finger pointing to now this, now that aspect of things, changing the aspect of things without noticing the affect this has on things, we read, “It is only someone who gets all the way through them can see how the two sides open into each other to form a oneness. Such a person would not define rightness in any one particular way but would instead entrust it to the everyday function [of each being]. Their everyday function is what works for them, and “working” just means this opening up into each other, their way of connecting. Opening to form a connection just means getting what you get: go as far as whatever you happen to get to, and leave it at that. It is all just the matter of going by the rightness of the present “this.” To be doing this without knowing it, and not because you have defined it as right, is called “the Course.”

Reading this again this morning as the nation slips into the abyss of the Donald’s madness makes me aware that it is not Donald’s madness that wakes me at four but that poem I wrote yesterday.

It’s a brilliant

Autumn day. I check out the

cove. No cormorants

on the shining float,

no egrets under the pier.

A few ducks swim at

their leisure. I’m held

in place between sky and water.

I dream I’m dreaming.

Is this about anything? Is this about an experience of anything? I point to my familiars, the cormorants and egrets, but no, they aren’t there. Is it about an experience of no-thing? Not of a pointing to but of a disappointment?

How very lyric!

In their substantial absence I notice the more mundane ducks. What holds me in place, securing the perspective of the not -cormorants, not-egrets? Just the ducks swimming around? Or does the opening up of the sides of the “experience,” as Zhuangzi would say, opening up to the Obvious, get me where I’m going? I’m “on Course.” Yet an effort to say where this has gotten me is to say something about a perspective not “grounded” but sort of floating between two universal limits, sky and water!

Is that an experience of anything? Or a dream within a dream? A sort of nothing-This? Going by the rightness of the present This. Which going is the Course. So I’m in the dreaming state of sleeping in the early morning, and open open to the Course?

Yes. And the Course turns out to be what I’ve been calling the lyric narrative, or the Lyric Company.

Author: Tom D'Evelyn

Tom D'Evelyn is a private editor and writing tutor in Cranston RI and, thanks to the web, across the US and in the UK. He can be reached at D'Evelyn has a PhD in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley. Before retiring he held positions at The Christian Science Monitor, Harvard University Press, Boston University and Brown University. He ran a literary agency for ten years, publishing books by Leonard Nathan and Arthur Quinn, among others. Before moving to Portland OR he was managing editor at Single Island Press, Portsmouth NH. He blogs at and other sites.

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