Tzu-kung returned and reported to Confucius what had happened. "What sort of men are they anyway?" he asked. "They pay no attention to proper behavior, disregard their personal appearance and, without so much as changing the expression on their faces, sing in the very presence of the corpse! I can think of no name for them! What sort of men are they?"I have never liked funerals. Many that I have attended smack of pomp and circumstance. It's as if they want to enforce how each person should deal with their sorrow and grief.
"Such men as they," said Confucius, "wander beyond the realm; men like me wander within it. Beyond and within can never meet. It was stupid of me to send you to offer condolences. Even now they have joined with the Creator as men to wander in the single breath of heaven and earth. They look upon life as a swelling tumor, a protruding wen, and upon death as the draining of a sore or the bursting of a boil. To men such as these, how could there be any question of putting life first or death last? They borrow the forms of different creatures and house them in the same body. They forget liver and gall, cast aside ears and eyes, turning and revolving, ending and beginning again, unaware of where they start or finish. Idly they roam beyond the dust and dirt; they wander free and easy in the service of inaction. Why should they fret and fuss about the ceremonies of the vulgar world and make a display for the ears and eyes of the common herd?"
~ Burton Watson translation ~
When my ex-wife's mother died, her siblings insisted that Ann go to the open casket to look at her mother's corpse. She didn't want to remember her mother that way, but her siblings insisted. She complied with their demands and immediately regretted it! She had nightmares for weeks.
To view the Index page for this series, go here.