‘Knowing enough to stop when one does not know is perfection’

Chuang Tsu observes, ‘Knowing enough to stop when one does not know is perfection.’ I welcome Chuang Tsu’s thoughts, his humor and his lightness. His measure and delight. Kant and Locke wrote of knowing one’s limits, but Kant said nothing of stopping and would have been shocked by Chuang Tsu’s epigrammatic ending: that stopping when one doesn’t know is perfection. Shocked rather than surprised, Kant would have said that it bespeaks human finitude, man’s imperfection, and he would have pressed on. The Christian believes that we are fallible and Montaigne seconds this thought; the Daoist Sage believes that we are a part of the ten thousand things. Observing this and gently smiling while stopping, we are perfection. Perfection? The wind moves the spring leaves, feeling its strength, then stops. Breathing, holding, releasing, then stopping. Death is stopping and the true man feels no elation at birth, no sorrow at death. Sometimes he laughs. Like Chuang Tsu’s line about perfection, the true man takes every event as a surprise. To be surprised is perfection.

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