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Mencius: (Meng Tzu, Meng K'o, 371-289 B.C.) A native of Tsao (in present Shantung), studied under pupils of Tzu Ssu, grandson of Confucius, became the greatest Confucian in Chinese history. He vigorously attacked the "pervasive teachings" of Yang Chu and Mo Tzu. Like Confucius, he travelled for many years, to many states, trying to persuade kings and princes to practice benevolent government instead of government by force, but failed. He retired to teach and write. (Meng Tzu, Eng. tr. by James Legge: i.) -- W.T.C.
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16 Mencius Moldbug
2 Jonathan Haidt
1:The way of truth is like a great road. It is not difficult to know it. The evil is only that men will not seek it.
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1:Never lose your child's heart. ~ Mencius
2:Sincerity is the way to heaven. ~ Mencius
3:In abundance prepare for scarcity. ~ Mencius
4:Human nature is disposed to do good. ~ Mencius
5:Friendship is one mind in two bodies. ~ Mencius
6:All things are complete within ourselves. ~ Mencius
7:Friends are the siblings God never gave us. ~ Mencius
8:Truth uttered before its time is dangerous. ~ Mencius
9:The Tao is near and people seek it far away. ~ Mencius
10:Mankind fears an evil man but heaven does not. ~ Mencius
11:Secure property in hand leads to peace in mind. ~ Mencius
12:He who wishes to be benevolent will not be rich. ~ Mencius
13:The great person never loses a childlike spirit. ~ Mencius
14:If the King loves music, it is well with the land. ~ Mencius
15:A real man is he whose goodness is a part of himself. ~ Mencius
16:The ways are two: love and want of love. That is all. ~ Mencius
17:A great man is one who has not lost the child's heart. ~ Mencius
18:Friends are the siblings God never gave us” (Mencius) ~ L J Shen
19:He who exerts his mind to the utmost knows his nature. ~ Mencius
20:The feeling of compassion is the beginning of humanity. ~ Mencius
21:The great man is he who does not lose his child's heart. ~ Mencius
22:The man of true greatness never loses his child's heart. ~ Mencius
23:The feeling of right or wrong is the beginning of wisdom. ~ Mencius
24:Benevolence is one of the distinguishing characters of man. ~ Mencius
25:Mencius said that human nature is good. I disagree with that. ~ Xunzi
26:The sole concern of learning is to seek one's original heart. ~ Mencius
27:The way of learning is none other than finding the lost mind. ~ Mencius
28:Heaven sees as the people see. Heaven hears as the people hear. ~ Mencius
29:One who believes all of a book would be better off without books ~ Mencius
30:He who goes to the bottom of his own heart knows his own nature; ~ Mencius
31:The way of truth is like a great highway. It is not hard to find. ~ Mencius
32:A man must first despise himself, and then others will despise him. ~ Mencius
33:Never has a man who has bent himself been able to make others straight. ~ Mencius
34:Kindly words do not enter so deeply into men as a reputation for kindness. ~ Mencius
35:The best things in life come in threes, like friends, dreams, and memories. ~ Mencius
36:Every duty is a charge, but the charge of oneself is the root of all others. ~ Mencius
37:The way is One and only One. The way is close at hand, but men seek it afar. ~ Mencius
38:Sincerity is the way to heaven; to think how to be sincere is the way of man. ~ Mencius
39:Cthulhu may swim slowly. But he only swims left. Isn’t that interesting? ~ Mencius Moldbug
40:There is no greater delight than to be conscious of sincerity on self-examination. ~ Mencius
41:The tendency of mans nature to good is like the tendency of water to flow downward. ~ Mencius
42:Where it is permissible both to die and not to die, it is an abuse of valour to die. ~ Mencius
43:It is not difficult to govern. All one has to do is not to offend the noble families. ~ Mencius
44:If the prince of a State love benevolence, he will have no opponent in all the empire. ~ Mencius
45:Morality is like taste in many ways—an analogy made long ago by Hume and Mencius. ~ Jonathan Haidt
46:Only when someone refuses to do certain things will he be capable of doing great things. ~ Mencius
47:There is a power in everything; it is the job of the artist to determine it and express it. ~ Mencius
48:The regular path of virtue is to be pursued without any bend, and from no view to emolument. ~ Mencius
49:The disease of men is that they neglect their own fields and go to weed the fields of others. ~ Mencius
50:A man must not be without shame, for the shame of being without shame is shamelessness indeed. ~ Mencius
51:Listen to a man's words and look at the pupil of his eye. How can a man conceal his character? ~ Mencius
52:To lay hold of the mean without taking into account the occasion is like grasping one thing only. ~ Mencius
53:People are eager to comment on something when they themselves are not in the situation of doing it. ~ Mencius
54:He who loves others is always loved by them, and he who respects others is always respected by them. ~ Mencius
55:The way is near, but men seek it afar. It is in easy things, but men seek for it in difficult things. ~ Mencius
56:Friendship with a man is friendship with his virtue, and does not admit of assumptions of superiority. ~ Mencius
57:He who loves others is constantly loved by them. He who respects others is constantly respected by them. ~ Mencius
58:Is it only the mouth and belly which are injured by hunger and thirst? Men's minds are also injured by them. ~ Mencius
59:The Way lies at hand yet it is sought afar off; the thing lies in the easy yet it is sought in the difficult. ~ Mencius
60:Only those who develop their minds and spirits to the utmost can serve Heaven and fulfill their own destinies. ~ Mencius
61:The myriad things are complete in us. There is no greater joy than to reflect on ourselves and become sincere. ~ Mencius
62:If you know that a thing is unrighteous, then use all dispatch in putting an end to it--why wait till next year? ~ Mencius
63:Men must be decided on what they will not do, and then they are able to act with vigor in what they ought to do. ~ Mencius
64:Virtue alone is not sufficient for the exercise of government; laws alone cannot carry themselves into practice. ~ Mencius
65:The way of truth is like a great road. It is not difficult to know it. The evil is only that men will not seek it. ~ Mencius
66:He who attends to his greater self becomes a great man, and he who attends to his smaller self becomes a small man. ~ Mencius
67:The way of truth is like a great road. It is not difficult to know it. The evil is only that men will not seek it.
68:So I like life and I like righteousness; if I cannot keep the two together, I will let life go and choose righteousness. ~ Mencius
69:Incessant falls teach men to reform, and distress rouses their strength. Life springs from calamity, and death from ease. ~ Mencius
70:A small country cannot contend with a great; the few cannot contend with the many; the weak cannot contend with the strong ~ Mencius
71:By exhaustively examining one's own mind,one may understand his nature.One who understands his own nature understands Heaven. ~ Mencius
72:The gap between enthusiasm and indifference is filled with failures. The great man is he that does not lose his child's heart. ~ Mencius
73:The people turn in allegiance to Humanity, as surely as water flows downward or as a wild animal takes cover in the wilderness. ~ Mencius
74:Those who follow the part of themselves which is great are great men; those who follow the part which is little are little men. ~ Mencius
75:When one by force subdues men, they do not submit to him in heart. They submit because their strength is not adequate to resist. ~ Mencius
76:If you let people follow their feelings, they will be able to do good. This is what is meant by saying that human nature is good. ~ Mencius
77:I dislike death, however, there are some things I dislike more than death. Therefore, there are times when I will not avoid danger. ~ Mencius
78:The root of the kingdom is in the state. The root of the state is in the family. The root of the family is in the person of its head. ~ Mencius
79:Try your best to treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself, and you will find that this is the shortest way to benevolence ~ Mencius
80:When Heaven is about to confer a great office upon you, it first exercises your mind with suffering and your sinews and bones with toil. ~ Mencius
81:Human nature is good, just as water seeks low ground. There is no man who is not good, just as there is no water that does not flow downward. ~ Mencius
82:All people have the common desire to be elevated in honour, but all people have something still more elevated in themselves without knowing it. ~ Mencius
83:The foundation of the world lies in the nation. The foundation of the nation lies in the family. The foundation of the family lies in the individual. ~ Mencius
84:Reality is the perfect enemy: it always fights back, it can never be defeated, and infinite energy can be expended in unsuccessfully resisting it. ~ Mencius Moldbug
85:Never has there been one possessed of complete sincerity who did not move others. Never has there been one who had not sincerity who was able to move others. ~ Mencius
86:The path of duty lies in what is near, and men seek for it in what is remote; the work of duty lies in what is easy, and men seek for it in what is difficult. ~ Mencius
87:The great man does not think beforehand of his words that they may be sincere, nor of his actions that they may be resolute- he simply speaks and does what is right. ~ Mencius
88:To feed men and not to love them is to treat them as if they were barnyard cattle. To love them and not respect them is to treat them as if they were household pets. ~ Mencius
89:To act without clear understanding, to form habits without investigation, to follow a path all one's life without knowing where it really leads; such is the behavior of the multitude. ~ Mencius
90:The five kinds of grains are considered good plants, but if the grains are not ripe, they are worse than cockles. It is the same with regard to kindness, which must grow into maturity. ~ Mencius
91:There is no way to receive a mainstream university education, read the Times every morning, trust both of them, and not be a progressive. Unless, of course, you’re an idiot. But ~ Mencius Moldbug
92:Evil exists to glorify the good. Evil is negative good. It is a relative term. Evil can be transmuted into good. What is evil to one at one time, becomes good at another time to somebody else. ~ Mencius
93:In other words, Kant is assuming that since voters are generally reasonable people, they will vote for reasonable governments that will act reasonably, and only undertake reasonable wars. ~ Mencius Moldbug
94:Let not a man do what his sense of right bids him not to do, nor desire what it forbids him to desire. This is sufficient. The skillful artist will not alter his measures for the sake of a stupid workman. ~ Mencius
95:Treat your elders as elders, and extend it to the elders of others; treat your young ones as young ones, and extend it to the young ones of others; then you can turn the whole world in the palm of your hand ~ Mencius
96:He who outrages benevolence is called a ruffian: he who outrages righteousness is called a villain. I have heard of the cutting off of the villain Chow, but I have not heard of the putting of a ruler to death. ~ Mencius
97:All things are already complete in us. There is no greater delight than to be conscious of right within us. If one strives to treat others as he would be treated by them, he shall not fail to come near the perfect life. ~ Mencius
98:You could stamp on this natural shoot of compassion, Mencius argued, just as you can cripple or deform your body, but if you cultivate this altruistic tendency assiduously, it will acquire a dynamic power of its own.23 The ~ Karen Armstrong
99:If you love men and they are unfriendly, look into your love; if you rule men and they are unruly, look into your wisdom; if you are courteous to them and they do not respond, look into your courtesy. If what you do is vain, always seek within. ~ Mencius
100:In many ways nonsense is a more effective organizing tool than the truth. Anyone can believe in the truth. To believe in nonsense is an unforgeable demonstration of loyalty. It serves as a political uniform. And if you have a uniform, you have an army. ~ Mencius Moldbug
101:[I]n many ways nonsense is a more effective organizing tool than the truth. Anyone can believe in the truth. To believe in nonsense is an unforgeable demonstration of loyalty. It serves as a political uniform. And if you have a uniform, you have an army. ~ Mencius Moldbug
102:Water indeed will flow indifferently to the east or west, but will it flow indifferently up or down? The tendency of our nature to good is like the tendency of water to flow downwards. There are none but have this tendency to good, just as all water flows downward. ~ Mencius
103:If you know the point of balance, You can settle the details. If you can settle the details, You can stop running around. Your mind will become calm. If your mind becomes calm, You can think in front of a tiger. If you can think in front of a tiger, You will surely succeed. ~ Mencius
104:The Chinese philosopher Mencius believed that man is innately good. He argued that anyone who saw a child falling into a well would immediately feel shock and alarm, and that this impulse, this universal capacity for commiseration, was proof positive that man is inherently good. ~ T Greenwood
105:Reality alone - bleak, elegant, mindless reality - is the null device on the Reactionary's black flag. Anyone who tells the truth, who believes her own lying eyes, who knows whereof the fsck she speaks, is in that moment as bitter and uncompromising a reactionary as ever put foot on the earth. ~ Mencius Moldbug
106:But royalism, even if you stick a “neo-” on the front, is just too old-fashioned to appeal to some. So we also offer an extra decorative touch, available for a mere $ 19.95, in which the customer can fill her cyst’s void with our own synthetic organ of government. We call it neocameralism, and it is very fresh. ~ Mencius Moldbug
107:How just will such reflections be, when our posterity shall fall under the merciless clutches of this uncharitable Generation! when our Church shall be swallowed up in Schism, Faction, Enthusiasm, and Confusion! when our Government shall be devolved upon Foreigners, and our Monarchy dwindled into a Republic! Rowan ~ Mencius Moldbug
108:When Heaven is about to confer a great office on a man, it first exercises his mind with suffering, and his sinews and bones with toil ; it exposes his body to hunger, and subjects him to extreme poverty ; it confounds his undertakings. By all these methods it stimulates his mind, hardens his nature, and supplies his incompetencies. ~ Mencius
109:When the men of antiquity realized their wishes, benefits were conferred by them on the people. If they did not realize their wishes, they cultivated their personal character, and became illustrious in the world. If poor, they attended to their own virtue in solitude; if advanced to dignity, they made the whole empire virtuous as well. ~ Mencius
110:When heaven is about to confer a great responsibility on any man, it will exercise his mind with suffering, subject his sinews and bones to hard work, expose his body to hunger, put him to poverty, place obstacles in the paths of his deeds, so as to stimulate his mind, harden his nature, and improve wherever he is incompetent. MENG TZU (MENCIUS), fourth century BCE1 ~ Greg Lukianoff
111:There is the work of great men and there is the work of little men. Therefore it is said, 'Some labor with their minds and some labor with their strength. Those who labor with their minds govern others; those who labor with their strength are governed by others.'1 Those who are governed by others support them; those who govern them are supported by them. This is a universal principle. ~ Mencius
112:When Heaven is going to give a great responsibility to someone, it first makes his mind endure suffering. It makes his sinews and bones experience toil, and his body to suffer hunger. It inflicts him with poverty and knocks down everything he tries to build. In this way Heaven stimulates his mind, stabilizes his temper, and develops his weak points. —The Book of Mencius (Chinese, 300 BC) ~ Timothy J Keller
113:At least in normal conditions of inter-patch peace and harmony, every Patchwork realm should positively exude rectitude and benevolence. This will of course infect its corporate culture. Perhaps it is possible to imagine Disneyland committing genocide. But it would have to be a very different Disneyland than the one we have right now. They would certainly have to replace at least half the employees. ~ Mencius Moldbug
114:The feeling of commiseration is the beginning of humanity; the feeling of shame and dislike is the beginning of righteousness; the feeling of deference and compliance is the beginning of propriety; and the feeling of right or wrong is the beginning of wisdom.Men have these Four Beginnings just as they have their four limbs. Having these Four Beginnings, but saying that they cannot develop them is to destroy themselves. ~ Mencius
115:Charity is in the heart of man, and righteousness in the path of men. Pity the man who has lost his path and does not follow it and who has lost his heart and does not know how to recover it. When people's dogs and chicks are lost they go out and look for them and yet the people who have lost their hearts do not go out and look for them. The principle of self-cultivation consists in nothing but trying to look for the lost heart. ~ Mencius
116:Populists voters are people who genuinely believe in democracy. They believe that the way Washington works is that the people elect a President, who “runs the country.” I once had an email exchange with a very successful, and quite erudite, populist political blogger who did not understand that President Bush cannot fire a State Department employee just because that employee is openly trying to sabotage White House initiatives. ~ Mencius Moldbug
117:But the factor is real: a sovereign is a sovereign, and no government can be entirely without paternal graces. No one in a sane society will be rendered into diesel, or even be allowed to starve to death for lack of productive earning power. Perhaps there are enough Randians on the planet for one city-state, but probably not two. Otherwise, it just won’t happen, and keeping it from happening is just one of the realm’s many business expenses. ~ Mencius Moldbug
118:At the height of the lame, doomed "Red Scare," the Brown Scare was ten times bigger. You may think it was difficult making a living as a communist screenwriter in 1954. It was a lot easier than being a fascist screenwriter. Or even an anticommunist screenwriter. (Same thing, right?) And as any pathetic last shreds of real opposition shrink and die off, the Scare only grows. That's how winners play it. That's just how the permanent revolution rolls. ~ Mencius Moldbug
119:On the one side were Confucians, inspired by Mencius, who, when asked how a state should raise profits, replied, “Why must Your Majesty use the word profit? All I am concerned with are the good and the right. If Your Majesty says, ‘How can I profit my state?’ your officials will say, ‘How can I profit my family?’ and officers and common people will say, ‘How can I profit myself?’ Once superiors and inferiors are competing for profit, the state will be in danger. ~ Mark Kurlansky
120:The fruit of humanity is devotion to one's parents. The fruit of righteousness is to respect one's elders. The fruit of wisdom is to understand these two and not to betray them. The fruit of propriety is to regulate and polish them. The fruit of music is the joy that comes from rejoicing in them. When one rejoices in them, they grow. When they grow, how can they be stopped? And when they cannot be stopped, unconsciously one's feet begin to dance and one's arms begin to wave. ~ Mencius
121:When I say that all men have the mind which cannot bear to see the suffering of others, my meaning is illustrated this way: when two men suddenly see a child about to fall into a well, they all have a feeling of alarm and distress, not to gain friendship with the child's parents, nor to seek the praise of their neighbors and friends. From such a case, we see that a man without the feeling of commiseration is not a man. The feeling of commiseration is the beginning of humanity. ~ Mencius
122:It is true that water will flow indifferently to east and west, but will it flow equally well up and down? Human nature is disposed toward goodness, just as water tends to flow downwards. There is no water but flows downwards, and no man but shows his tendency to be good. Now, by striking water hard, you may splash it higher than your forehead, and by damming it, you may make it go uphill. But, is that the nature of water? It is external force that causes it to do so. Likewise, if a man is made to do what is not good, his nature is being similarly forced. ~ Mencius
123:I grew up thinking the only scriptures on earth were those inspired by the Hebrew prophets of the Old Testament, the words and letters of Jesus and his apostles, and the scriptures of the Restoration. But how could the God I believed was the loving God of all the earth not speak somehow to everyone else? For years I wrestled with this idea. Having now read the Chinese classics, certainly Confucius, but others as well, I believe I have found the scriptural infusion God gave the Chinese nation. Mencius is my favorite, I must admit, and I do not hesitate to call what he bestowed upon the world scripture--some of the most optimistic, holy writing the world has. ~ S Michael Wilcox
124:As Delegate of San Francisco, what should you do with these people? I think the answer is clear: alternative energy. Since wards are liabilities, there is no business case for retaining them in their present, ambulatory form. Therefore, the most profitable disposition for this dubious form of capital is to convert them into biodiesel, which can help power the Muni buses. Okay, just kidding. This is the sort of naive Randian thinking which appeals instantly to a geek like me, but of course has nothing to do with real life. The trouble with the biodiesel solution is that no one would want to live in a city whose public transportation was fueled, even just partly, by the distilled remains of its late underclass. ~ Mencius Moldbug
125:Another word for private philanthropy, with different negative connotations, is charity. Charity was of course one of the principal obligations of the medieval ecclesiastical establishment, the other two being education and adult instruction. In consonance with the general 20th-century pattern in which State has captured the role of Church, thus effecting the merger of the two by different means, most of us today perceive charity as a sovereign function. And thus we trivialize any charitable establishment which is fully outside the State, as only the most hard-line of unreconstructed ecclesiasts are today. (Nonprofits in the US today tend to fund themselves via a mix of donations with government grants, contracts, etc.) ~ Mencius Moldbug
126:For the Communist Party, the return of class presented an opportunity: the Party came to believe that co-opting those with property would buttress it against agitation toward democracy. Officials took to quoting the ancient sage Mencius, who said, “Those with a constant livelihood have a constant heart, those lacking a constant livelihood lack a constant heart.” But relying on prosperity to ensure a “constant heart” posed a problem that would grow into the Chinese Communist Party’s essential paradox: How could the heirs of Marx and Lenin, the rulers of the People’s Republic, who had risen to power denouncing bourgeois values and inequality, baldly embrace the new moneyed class? How could it retain its ideological claim to rule? ~ Evan Osnos
127:The Chinese sage Mencius made the analogy between morality and food 2,300 years ago when he wrote that “moral principles please our minds as beef and mutton and pork please our mouths.”4 In this chapter and the next two, I’ll develop the analogy that the righteous mind is like a tongue with six taste receptors. In this analogy, morality is like cuisine: it’s a cultural construction, influenced by accidents of environment and history, but it’s not so flexible that anything goes. You can’t have a cuisine based on tree bark, nor can you have one based primarily on bitter tastes. Cuisines vary, but they all must please tongues equipped with the same five taste receptors.5 Moral matrices vary, but they all must please righteous minds equipped with the same six social receptors. ~ Jonathan Haidt
128:The difference between a monarch and a dictator is that the monarchical succession is defined by law and the dictatorial succession is defined by power. The effect in the latter is that the fish rots from the head down — lawlessness permeates the state, as in a mafia family, because contending leaders must build informal coalitions. Since another name for a monarchist is a legitimist, we can contrast the legitimist and demotist theories of government. […] Perhaps unsurprisingly, I see legitimism as a sort of proto-formalism. The royal family is a perpetual corporation, the kingdom is the property of this corporation, and the whole thing is a sort of real-estate venture on a grand scale. Why does the family own the corporation and the corporation own the kingdom? Because it does. Property is historically arbitrary.
The best way for the monarchies of Old Europe to modernize, in my book, would have been to transition the corporation from family ownership to shareholder ownership, eliminating the hereditary principle which caused so many problems for so many monarchies. However, the trouble with corporate monarchism is that it presents no obvious political formula. “Because it does” cuts no ice with a mob of pitchfork-wielding peasants. […] So the legitimist system went down another path, which led eventually to its destruction: the path of divine-right monarchy. When everyone believes in God, “because God says so” is a much more impressive formula.
Perhaps the best way to look at demotism is to see it as the Protestant version of rule by divine right — based on the theory of vox populi, vox dei. If you add divine-right monarchy to a religious system that is shifting from the worship of God to the worship of Man, demotism is pretty much what you’d expect to precipitate in the beaker. ~ Mencius Moldbug
129:JANUARY 26 Being Kind-I You often say, “I would give, but only to the deserving.” The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pastures. They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish. —KAHLIL GIBRAN The great and fierce mystic William Blake said, There is no greater act than putting another before you. This speaks to a selfless giving that seems to be at the base of meaningful love. Yet having struggled for a lifetime with letting the needs of others define me, I've come to understand that without the healthiest form of self-love—without honoring the essence of life that this thing called “self” carries, the way a pod carries a seed—putting another before you can result in damaging self-sacrifice and endless codependence. I have in many ways over many years suppressed my own needs and insights in an effort not to disappoint others, even when no one asked me to. This is not unique to me. Somehow, in the course of learning to be good, we have all been asked to wrestle with a false dilemma: being kind to ourselves or being kind to others. In truth, though, being kind to ourselves is a prerequisite to being kind to others. Honoring ourselves is, in fact, the only lasting way to release a truly selfless kindness to others. It is, I believe, as Mencius, the grandson of Confucius, says, that just as water unobstructed will flow downhill, we, given the chance to be what we are, will extend ourselves in kindness. So, the real and lasting practice for each of us is to remove what obstructs us so that we can be who we are, holding nothing back. If we can work toward this kind of authenticity, then the living kindness—the water of compassion—will naturally flow. We do not need discipline to be kind, just an open heart. Center yourself and meditate on the water of compassion that pools in your heart. As you breathe, simply let it flow, without intent, into the air about you. JANUARY 27 Being Kind-II We love what we attend. —MWALIMU IMARA There were two brothers who never got along. One was forever ambushing everything in his path, looking for the next treasure while the first was still in his hand. He swaggered his shield and cursed everything he held. The other brother wandered in the open with very little protection, attending whatever he came upon. He would linger with every leaf and twig and broken stone. He blessed everything he held. This little story suggests that when we dare to move past hiding, a deeper law arises. When we bare our inwardness fully, exposing our strengths and frailties alike, we discover a kinship in all living things, and from this kinship a kindness moves through us and between us. The mystery is that being authentic is the only thing that reveals to us our kinship with life. In this way, we can unfold the opposite of Blake's truth and say, there is no greater act than putting yourself before another. Not before another as in coming first, but rather as in opening yourself before another, exposing your essence before another. Only in being this authentic can real kinship be known and real kindness released. It is why we are moved, even if we won't admit it, when strangers let down and show themselves. It is why we stop to help the wounded and the real. When we put ourselves fully before another, it makes love possible, the way the stubborn land goes soft before the sea. Place a favorite object in front of you, and as you breathe, put yourself fully before it and feel what makes it special to you. As you breathe, meditate on the place in you where that specialness comes from. Keep breathing evenly, and know this specialness as a kinship between you and your favorite object. During your day, take the time to put yourself fully before something that is new to you, and as you breathe, try to feel your kinship to it. ~ Mark Nepo
130:financially and employed him as his unofficial secretary.
In March 768, he began his journey again and got as far as Hunan province,
where he died in Tanzhou (now Changsha) in November or December 770, in his
58th year. He was survived by his wife and two sons, who remained in the area
for some years at least. His last known descendant is a grandson who requested
a grave inscription for the poet from Yuan Zhen in 813.
Hung summarises his life by concluding that, "He appeared to be a filial son, an
affectionate father, a generous brother, a faithful husband, a loyal friend, a
dutiful official, and a patriotic subject."
Criticism of ~ Du Fu
's works has focused on his strong sense of history, his moral
engagement, and his technical excellence.
Since the Song dynasty, critics have called ~ Du Fu
the "poet historian". The most
directly historical of his poems are those commenting on military tactics or the
successes and failures of the government, or the poems of advice which he wrote
to the emperor. Indirectly, he wrote about the effect of the times in which he
lived on himself, and on the ordinary people of China. As Watson notes, this is
information "of a kind seldom found in the officially compiled histories of the
~ Du Fu
's political comments are based on emotion rather than calculation: his
prescriptions have been paraphrased as, "Let us all be less selfish, let us all do
what we are supposed to do". Since his views were impossible to disagree with,
his forcefully expressed truisms enabled his installation as the central figure of
Chinese poetic history.
A second favourite epithet of Chinese critics is that of "poet sage" (?? shi shèng),
a counterpart to the philosophical sage, Confucius. One of the earliest surviving
works, The Song of the Wagons (from around 750), gives voice to the sufferings
of a conscript soldier in the imperial army, even before the beginning of the
rebellion; this poem brings out the tension between the need of acceptance and
fulfilment of one's duties, and a clear-sighted consciousness of the suffering
which this can involve. These themes are continuously articulated in the poems
on the lives of both soldiers and civilians which ~ Du Fu
produced throughout his
Although ~ Du Fu
's frequent references to his own difficulties can give the
impression of an all-consuming solipsism, Hawkes argues that his "famous
compassion in fact includes himself, viewed quite objectively and almost as an
afterthought". He therefore "lends grandeur" to the wider picture by comparing it
to "his own slightly comical triviality".
~ Du Fu
's compassion, for himself and for others, was part of his general
broadening of the scope of poetry: he devoted many works to topics which had
previously been considered unsuitable for poetic treatment. Zhang Jie wrote that
for ~ Du Fu
, "everything in this world is poetry", and he wrote extensively on
subjects such as domestic life, calligraphy, paintings, animals, and other poems.
~ Du Fu
's work is notable above all for its range. Chinese critics traditionally used
the term txt (jídàchéng- "complete symphony"), a reference to Mencius'
description of Confucius. Yuan Zhen was the first to note the breadth of ~ Du Fu
achievement, writing in 813 that his predecessor, "united in his work traits which
previous men had displayed only singly". He mastered all the forms of Chinese
poetry: Chou says that in every form he "either made outstanding advances or
contributed outstanding examples". Furthermore, his poems use a wide range of
registers, from the direct and colloquial to the allusive and self-consciously
literary. This variety is manifested even within individual works: Owen identifies
the, "rapid stylistic and thematic shifts" in poems which enable the poet to
represent different facets of a situation, while Chou uses the term "juxtaposition"
as the major analytical tool in her work. ~ Du Fu
is noted for having written more
on poetics and painting than any other writer of his time. He wrote eighteen
poems on painting alone, more than any other Tang poet. ~ Du Fu
negative commentary on the prized horse paintings of Han Gan ignited a
controversy that has persisted to the present day.
The tenor of his work changed as he developed his style and adapted to his
surroundings ("chameleon-like" according to Watson): his earliest works are in a
relatively derivative, courtly style, but he came into his own in the years of the
rebellion. Owen comments on the "grim simplicity" of the Qinzhou poems, which
mirrors the desert landscape; the works from his Chengdu period are "light, often
finely observed"; while the poems from the late Kuizhou period have a "density
and power of vision".
According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, ~ Du Fu
's writings are considered by
many literary critics to be among the greatest of all time, and it states "his
dense, compressed language makes use of all the connotative overtones of a
phrase and of all the intonational potentials of the individual word, qualities that
no translation can ever reveal."
In his lifetime and immediately following his death, ~ Du Fu
was not greatly
appreciated. In part this can be attributed to his stylistic and formal innovations,
some of which are still "considered extremely daring and bizarre by Chinese
critics." There are few contemporary references to him—only eleven poems from
six writers—and these describe him in terms of affection, but not as a paragon of
poetic or moral ideals. ~ Du Fu
is also poorly represented in contemporary
anthologies of poetry.
However, as Hung notes, he "is the only Chinese poet whose influence grew with
time", and his works began to increase in popularity in the ninth century. Early
positive comments came from Bai Juyi, who praised the moral sentiments of
some of ~ Du Fu
's works (although he found these in only a small fraction of the
poems), and from Han Yu, who wrote a piece defending ~ Du Fu
and Li Bai on
aesthetic grounds from attacks made against them. Both these writers showed
the influence of ~ Du Fu
in their own poetic work. By the beginning of the 10th
century, Wei Zhuang constructed the first replica of his thatched cottage in
It was in the 11th century, during the Northern Song era that ~ Du Fu
reached its peak. In this period a comprehensive re-evaluation of earlier poets
took place, in which Wang Wei, Li Bai and ~ Du Fu
came to be regarded as
representing respectively the Buddhist, Daoist and Confucian strands of Chinese
culture. At the same time, the development of Neo-Confucianism ensured that
~ Du Fu
, as its poetic exemplar, occupied the paramount position. Su Shi famously
expressed this reasoning when he wrote that ~ Du Fu
because... through all his vicissitudes, he never for the space of a meal forgot his
sovereign". His influence was helped by his ability to reconcile apparent
opposites: political conservatives were attracted by his loyalty to the established
order, while political radicals embraced his concern for the poor. Literary
conservatives could look to his technical mastery, while literary radicals were
inspired by his innovations. Since the establishment of the People's Republic of
China, ~ Du Fu
's loyalty to the state and concern for the poor have been
interpreted as embryonic nationalism and socialism, and he has been praised for
his use of simple, "people's language".
~ Du Fu
's popularity grew to such an extent that it is as hard to measure his
influence as that of Shakespeare in England: it was hard for any Chinese poet not
to be influenced by him. While there was never another ~ Du Fu
, individual poets
followed in the traditions of specific aspects of his work: Bai Juyi's concern for the
poor, Lu You's patriotism, and Mei Yaochen's reflections on the quotidian are a
few examples. More broadly, ~ Du Fu
's work in transforming the lushi from mere
word play into "a vehicle for serious poetic utterance" set the stage for every
subsequent writer in the genre.
~ Du Fu
has also been influential beyond China, although in common with the other
High Tang poets, his reception into the Japanese literary culture was relatively
late. It was not until the 17th century that he was accorded the same level of
fame in Japan as in China, but he then had a profound influence on poets such as
Matsuo Basho. In the 20th century, he was the favourite poet of Kenneth
Rexroth, who has described him as "the greatest non-epic, non-dramatic poet
who has survived in any language", and commented that, "he has made me a
better man, as a moral agent and as a perceiving organism".
A Homeless Man's Departure
After the Rebellion of 755, all was silent wasteland,
gardens and cottages turned to grass and thorns.
My village had over a hundred households,
but the chaotic world scattered them east and west.
No information about the survivors;
the dead are dust and mud.
I, a humble soldier, was defeated in battle.
I ran back home to look for old roads
and walked a long time through the empty lanes.
The sun was thin, the air tragic and dismal.
I met only foxes and raccoons,
their hair on end as they snarled in rage.
Who remains in my neighborhood?
One or two old widows.
A returning bird loves its old branches,
how could I give up this poor nest?
In spring I carry my hoe all alone,
yet still water the land at sunset.
The county governor's clerk heard I'd returned
and summoned me to practice the war-drum.
This military service won't take me from my state.
I look around and have no one to worry about.
It's just me alone and the journey is short,
but I will end up lost if I travel too far.
Since my village has been washed away,
near or far makes no difference.
I will forever feel pain for my long-sick mother.
I abandoned her in this valley five years ago.
She gave birth to me, yet I could not help her.
We cry sour sobs till our lives end.
In my life I have no family to say farewell to,
so how can I be called a human being?
~ Du Fu
1.01 - To Watanabe Sukefusa, #Beating the Cloth Drum Letters of Zen Master Hakuin, #unset, #Poetry
Sharing these premises, Hakuin launched vehement attacks on what he considered the mistaken understanding purveyed by such architects of Confucian orthodoxy as Hayashi Razan (see chapter
12). Hakuin's ideas on the subject may be summed up fairly well in the calligraphic works he prepared and distri buted in large numbers to people. These works consisted of one large character, filiality or parent, followed by the inscription, "There is no more valuable act of filiality than to save one's father and mother from the sad fate of an unfortunate rebirth in the next life"-exactly the sentiments Hakuin had expressed to Sukefusa as a young monk. a It was considered extremely unfilial to injure or disfigure the body of one's (male) children. This was especially heinous in the case of an eldest son, who, according to the canons of filial piety, is venerated because of his superior birth, age, and gender. b Although not all of these references can be traced, most of them are found in Tales of the TwentyFour Paragons of Filial Virtue (Ehr-shih-ssu hsiao), a popular Confucian text of the Yuan dynasty that was reprinted and widely read in Edo Japan. c A legendary sage ruler of ancient China. According to Mencius, when ministers came to him with good advice, Yu always received it with deep gratitude.
1.11 - Higher Laws, #Walden, and On The Duty Of Civil Disobedience, #Henry David Thoreau, #Philosophy
We are conscious of an animal in us, which awakens in proportion as our higher nature slumbers. It is reptile and sensual, and perhaps cannot be wholly expelled; like the worms which, even in life and health, occupy our bodies. Possibly we may withdraw from it, but never change its nature. I fear that it may enjoy a certain health of its own; that we may be well, yet not pure. The other day I picked up the lower jaw of a hog, with white and sound teeth and tusks, which suggested that there was an animal health and vigor distinct from the spiritual. This creature succeeded by other means than temperance and purity. That in which men differ from brute beasts, says Mencius, is a thing very inconsiderable; the common herd lose it very soon; superior men preserve it carefully. Who knows what sort of life would result if we had attained to purity? If I knew so wise a man as could teach me purity I would go to seek him forthwith. A comm and over our passions, and over the external senses of the body, and good acts, are declared by the Ved to be indispensable in the minds approximation to God. Yet the spirit can for the time pervade and control every member and function of the body, and transmute what in form is the grossest sensuality into purity and devotion. The generative energy, which, when we are loose, dissipates and makes us unclean, when we are continent invigorates and inspires us. Chastity is the flowering of man; and what are called Genius, Heroism, Holiness, and the like, are but various fruits which succeed it. Man flows at once to God when the channel of purity is open. By turns our purity inspires and our impurity casts us down. He is blessed who is assured that the animal is dying out in him day by day, and the divine being established. Perhaps there is none but has cause for shame on account of the inferior and brutish nature to which he is allied. I fear that we are such gods or demigods only as fauns and satyrs, the divine allied to beasts, the creatures of appetite, and that, to some extent, our very life is our disgrace.