Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Wanderings - What They Want to Be

On the very first day, with his five charges before him, Chen Jen asked them each one what they wanted to be. But the answers were but two.

The eldest son said, and the other sons agreed: “Respected Sir, I want to be rich and respected like my revered father.”

And the eldest daughter, with the other agreeing said, “Respected Sir, I want to be beautiful and wanted by a rich and respected man like my reverend father.”

Thereupon Chen Jen began to instruct them in the history and wisdom of the ancients. He taught them of the mystical beginnings of the Chinese people, of Fu His, Shen Nung, and the Yellow Emperor. Then he taught them about the Sage Kings, of Yao, Shun, and Yu. And he taught them of the Three Dynasties, of Chou, Western Chou and Eastern Chou.

After three months of this instruction, Chen Jen asked them again what they wanted to be. Again the answers were two.

The eldest son answered, and the other boys agreed, “Respected Sir, I want to be a good and noble man like the revered ancients.”

And the eldest daughter speaking also for her sister said, “Respected Sir, I want to be humble and obedient and always do my duty as we are taught by the revered ancients.”

Thereupon Chen Jen began to teach them of the Spring of the Hundred Philosophies. He taught them of Kung-fu-tzu, Mencius, and Hsun-tzu of the school of the Confucians and their teachings of duty and perfection through learning. He taught them of Mo-tzu and his tyranny of love. He taught them of Shang Yang, Kung-son Lung, and Han Fei-tzu and their School of the Legalists who taught of the priority of law and obedience to the state. And finally, he taught them of Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu who had no school, but spoke of the intuitive understanding of Tao and harmony with Nature.

After six months of this instruction, Chen Jen again asked them what they wanted to be. But this time there was a great clamoring of voices yelling, “Sir, Sir, pick me, pick me!”

Passing in the hall and hearing this great clamoring, their father knocked on the door and entered exclaiming, “What’s this!? Are my children showing you disrespect, Sir!? Should I have them taken out and beaten!?”

“No, indeed, Lord!” replied Chen Jen. “Your children have only now just discovered their voices and this clamoring is but a consequence of the awakening in their hearts. And though, in their enthusiasm they have forgotten to use a more respectful title and have descended into this apparent anarchy, I have no doubt that they have come to respect me only more. But whereas it was expressed in a formal title it is now expressed in appreciation and truth.”

“I will accept what you say and forgive them on your behalf,” replied the father. “And I see, too, that education is both a wonderful and dangerous thing. But I know well that I have not erred in entrusting my children’s education to you, for I would have them think clearly and think for themselves, for therein lies true wisdom.” Then looking sternly, but lovingly, at his children, he said, “See to it that you treat your teacher with reverence and respect, however much he sets your minds free!”

“Yes, Revered Father!” they answered with one voice. And with that he departed, unsuccessfully trying to keep the smile of pride and love from his face.

“And now,” said Chen Jen, “let’s have your answers, but one at a time, the eldest first, then on down the line.”

“Respected Sir,” answered the eldest, “I want to pursue inner peace and harmony with the Tao.” And this was echoed in various forms by them all, though the youngest daughter added, “For this is the only true way to be noble and respected, beautiful and wanted, for all these things come, like true riches and honor, when we pursue them not nor care if they be.”

Satisfied that they were now ready to learn wisdom, Chen Jen continued to feed them knowledge, but instructed them to filter it well and teach him their own newfound wisdom.

This post is part of a series. To view the index, go here.

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