By Mark Vernon
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Additional info for 42 : deep thought on life, the universe and everything
Such was the glory of the experience that he completely forgot he was Zhuangzi. After a little while, however, it occurred to him that the proud butterfly was really Zhuangzi dreaming he was a butterfly. ’ was a butterfly imagining that it was Zhuangzi? Maybe Zhuangzi was the butterfly and maybe the butterfly was Zhuangzi? Zhuangzi awoke and though he knew again that he was a philosopher, his visionary merging of realities suggested to him that his knowledge of himself was limited, possibly completely delusory.
In fact, the straightforward equation of knowledge with happiness was questioned almost immediately. Some asked whose ‘knowledge’ made who happy. The knowledge of the factory owner, manifest in the doctrines of commerce, allowed them to prosper but only at the expense of the masses. The knowledge of men, manifest in an exclusive social order, might sustain their contentment, while women are not heard and hardly seen. Then there is the question of whether and what knowledge attainable by human beings provides firm foundations for happiness.
No wonder the romantic crusaders built a fortress here, despite, as T. E. Lawrence pointed out, its site fatally compromising its military strength: Saladin took the place in just a couple of days. Typically for one of Syria’s tourist sites, it was more or less deserted for my visit to its groined and cradled vaults. A particularly delightful find was a water cistern on the north wall, a tall arched room with a continuous roof 32 metres long, giving it 15 seconds of reverberation. In such an acoustic, a clever singer could perform a solo four part harmony.