Sunday, May 1, 2011

In the Dock

In the Dock
by Scott Bradley


I have begun reading The Analects of Confucius (Arthur Waley). Like so many of these things, it was definitely not written by Confucius, though it is possible that many of the collected sayings were his as recorded by his disciples, or disciples of disciples.... Good, reliable Scripture is so hard to find. In any case, I'll be sharing thoughts on selected sayings, though I suspect they will be few — I doubt you are interested in how best to sacrifice to your ancestors.

"The Master said, 'In vain I have looked for a single man capable of seeing his own faults and bringing the charge home against himself.'" (V 26)

We are all capable, it seems to me, of seeing our isolated failings (losing one's temper with Mom, for example), and apologizing for them, but Confucius seems to expect more of us. He wants our very character in the dock. And he wants to hear, Incorrigible! Guilty as charged! And then, Alas, I am a man of poor character!

I think I'm more or less capable of that. (But Confucius never met me.) It's what comes next that is the real issue. What is one to do? Wear sackcloth and ashes? Cut oneself with sharp stones? Torture oneself under a perpetual burden of guilt? Repent and turn to Jesus? This, I think, is a watershed issue.

Confucius' solution was more 'learning', by which he meant 'self-improvement'. One learns what is Goodness (jen) (how to be a dutiful son or daughter, for example) and then diligently applies oneself to becoming that. But can someone of poor character actually do that? And if so, can he escape the guilt, since he will never truly arrive at Goodness? (Confucius actually seems to have believed that no one was Good, with the possible exception of himself.)

You already know my solution, cryptically revealed in the profound statement: So what?

Get out from under the infinite (for it is limitless) burden of guilt and realize that right and wrong are not qualifying prerequisites for entrance into the 'Kingdom of Heaven'. You are already there, just as you are. There is only One, manifest as you. (And I hope you're not saying It has poor character!)

Forget about 'self-improvement' and it will take care of itself.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

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