Wednesday, November 17, 2004

It's time for some more non-original material

[My March archives are hosed-up. Anybody notice that? I see that it works fine if I shrink the text size a notch. I fixed the oversized pictures in April, so that will work better now.]

I find that I'm still tired of the Hindu stuff. How about a little Confucius?


Confucius said: "Truth does not depart from human nature. If what is regarded as truth departs from human nature, it may not be regarded as truth. The Book of Songs says: 'In hewing an axe handle, the pattern is not far off.' [Seems kind of incomplete.] Thus, when we take an axe handle in our hand to hew another axe handle and glance from one to the other, some still think the pattern is far off. Where fore the moral man in dealing with men appeals to the common human nature and changes the manner of their lives and nothing more.

"When a man carries out the principles of conscientiousness and reciprocity he is not far from the moral law. What you do not wish others should do unto you, do not do unto them.

"There are four things in the moral life of a man, not one of which I have been able to carry out in my life. To serve my father as I would expect my son to serve me: that I have not been able to do. To serve my sovereign as I would expect a minister under me to serve me: that I have not been able to do. To act towards my elder brothers as I would expect my younger brother to act towards me: that I have not been able to do. To be the first to behave towards friends as I would expect them to behave towards me: that I have not been able to do.

"In the discharge of the ordinary duties of life and in the exercise of care in ordinary conversation, whenever there is shortcoming, never fail to strive for improvement, and when there is much to be said, always say less than what is necessary; words having respect to actions and actions have respect to words. Is it not just this thorough genuineness and absence of pretense which characterizes the moral man?"

All right! That's the kind of thing I'm looking for. Straight-forward talk about how to live. Anything new here?

Since I haven't done this in a while, I guess I should tell everybody that this comes from a long out-of-print book called The Wisdom of India and China, edited by Lin Yutang. Nobody had it available, last time I checked. Others of Lin's books are available, like The Importance of Living.

I found this one at a used-book store.

Let's go ahead and finish the section:

The moral life of man may be likened to traveling to a distant place: one must start from the nearest stage. It may also be likened to ascending a height: one must begin from the lowest step. The Book of Songs says:
"When wives and children and their sires are one,
'Tis like the harp and lute in unison.
When brothers live in concord and at peace
The strain of harmony shall never cease.
The lamp of happy union lights the home,
And bright days follow when the children come."

Confucius, commenting on the above, remarked: "In such a state of things what more satisfaction can parents have?"

The moral man conforms himself to his life circumstances: he does not desire anything outside of his position. Finding himself in a position of wealth and honor, he lives as becomes one living in a position of wealth and honor. Finding himself in a position of poverty and humble circumstances, he lives as becomes one living in a position of poverty and humble circumstances. Finding himself in uncivilized countries, he lives as becomes one living in uncivilized countries. Finding himself in circumstances of danger and difficulty, he acts according to what is required of a man under such circumstances. In one word, the moral man can find himself in no situation in life in which he is not master of himself.

OK, I find that rather less enlightening. So you have to go outside of Confucius' works to find the paths to propriety in those cases.
In a high position he does not domineer over his subordinates. In a subordinate position he does not court the favors of his superiors. He puts in order his own personal conduct and seeks nothing from others: hence he has no complaint to make. He complains not against God, nor rails against men.

Thus it is that the moral man lives out the even tenor of his life calmly waiting for the appointment of God, whereas the vulgar person takes to dangerous courses, expecting the uncertain chances of luck.

Confucius remarked: "In the practice of archery we have something resembling the principle in a moral man's life. When the archer misses the center of the target, he turns round and seeks for the cause of his failure within himself."

I'd like to see a bit more of that going on.

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