(which kinda responds to question #4 about Taoist 'see-ers,' in a half-assed sort of way)
Last night I went to Wall St. with a friend of mine. It's a downtown nightclub, a bar and dance floor much like any other, except for its somewhat eclectic patronage. Gays and lesbians (feel free to substitute the euphemisms of your choice) mingle freely with "straights," trans-sexuals, cross-dressers, and a host of other points on the rainbow continuum of human sexuality which ranged far beyond the meager domain of my conservatively suburban upbringing. Sunday nights (of which this was one) are the best times for the intrepid adventurer or curious mind, when the lights go down and the drag queens capture the stage.
I guess what really surprised me most about the show, or more accurately the first performance I saw a few weeks ago, was how quickly I adjusted to thinking of the dancers as literal females. I tried to keep firmly in mind that these were really men, ordinary joes like me with a dwarvish 'Y' chromosome branding every cell of blood, bone and brain; males who just happened to shave their limbs (and torsos and backs and buns and...) and cram their genitals most ungently into pockets which would scarcely hold my keys; but I couldn't hold the thought; couldn't convince my heart. You see, they *looked* like women; they *moved* like women; they *sounded* like women (especially the ones with the deep throaty voices who frequent the 1-900 commercials); and basically, I was confounded by the apparent dichotomy between my unbending cognitive awareness that they were men, and my equally fervent sensory insistence that they were most definitely female.
Within minutes of my arrival (seconds on the second trip), the battle was declared, fought, and settled between my warring Apollonian and Dionysian hemispheres. They *were* men; that could not be doubted with any more conviction than the scientific assurance that the sun is a globe of hydrogen gas slowly fusing into helium. At the same time, they *were* female; and that could be not be denied any more than the intuitive truth that wine and suns are the things that dreams and poems are made of. I was not surprised that my senses conflicted with my formal knowledge; that happens all the time (for example, there are many quite convincing visual illusions regarding length, parallax, and gravitational orientation). However, I was surprised at how quickly my mind adjusted to ignoring "fact" and obeying "instinct," rather than the reverse.
What all this seemed to indicate was that we can never be wholly sure of what is "truth" and what is illusion; there is no objective hatrack on which we can hang our final judgements. All we can do is live with and act upon that which we receive, twisted and contradictory as that sometimes appears. When talking to the dancers after the show (several came out to see who was snapping flashbulbs at them), I had to finally give up all my futile urges to maintain old labels: I simply could not discern a flaw in the physio- socio- makeover these people had undergone. They *were* women in every sense I could possibly perceive, and it seemed as though acting in accordance with any other understanding would be extreme foolishness on *my* part.
We, all of us, can only work with what we are given. If it is given to us to know the track of the stars in their heavens, then we may take that knowledge and design calendars which accurately trace the passage of time throughout the millenia. If, on the other hand, all the constellations were to one day dance about the sky and spell out in scintillating, parsec-long capitals, "REPENT, OLIVER!" then that's bloody well what we've got to do. It is not for us to try to impose our pre- and mis-conceptions of reality on a nature and Being which has gotten along quite well without us or our fickle ideologies. Rather,our responsibility lies in responding to what find at hand (and eye and ear); as soon as we become choosy about our perceptions, and even begin *denying* them for the sake of more plausible beliefs, then we damn ourselves with our own blindness.
At first I had a lot of trouble justifying this conviction to myself (see? I'm doing it already), thinking that Nazi recruiters would have agreed completely with the notion of "seeing-and-accept--don't-doubt;" then I remembered what an absolutely transcendent and horrifyingly precice experience true "seeing" could be: "seeing" millions of humans herded and slaughtered like cattle; "seeing" weeping families torn apart by grimly forsaken guards; "seeing" the novelty of a shower which sprayed no water. No, the danger did not lie in trusting one's senses, but in having faith in patently ridiculous preconceptions: an entire race should die for believing in the wrong god; variances in melanin, even trace degrees detectable only in geneological charts, are sufficient cause for slavery; &c.
Is this stretched a little far from worrying about conflicting labels springing from physiology and an eccentric preference in costume and posture? I don't think so. Not in an age when klansmen sponsor political candidates, and people cheer cannibalistic killers like Jeffery Dahmer for giving "fags and niggers" only what they deserved. People have got to learn to live without the preconceptions, categories, and judgements which act as their crutch in this chaotic and admittedly unwieldy world.
He who boasts that he is free from craving, owning, knowing, only proves his strivings and illusions are still growing. Is there still hope (AS 129) I may be growing toward the Wisdom How do we perceive our Self-Nature? that is not-knowing? That which perceives IS our Self-Nature. (AS 144) Without it, there could not be perception. (AS 116)