Thursday, January 24, 2013

Bit by Bit - Chapter 6, Part 24

Trey Smith

Yi Erh-tzu went to see Hsu Yu. Hsu Yu said, "What kind of assistance has Yao been giving you?"

Yi Erh-tzu said, "Yao told me, `You must learn to practice benevolence and righteousness and to speak clearly about right and wrong!'"

"Then why come to see me?" said Hsu Yu. "Yao has already tattooed you with benevolence and righteousness and cut off your nose with right and wrong. Now how do you expect to go wandering in any far-away, carefree, and as-you-like-it paths?"

"That may be," said Yi Erh-tzu. "But I would like if I may to wander in a little corner of them."

"Impossible!" said Hsu Yu. "Eyes that are blind have no way to tell the loveliness of faces and features; eyes with no pupils have no way to tell the beauty of colored and embroidered silks."

Yi Erh-tzu said, "Yes, but Wu-chuang forgot her beauty, Chu-liang forgot his strength, and the Yellow Emperor forgot his wisdom - all were content to be recast and remolded . How do you know that the Creator will not wipe away my tattoo, stick my nose back on again, and let me ride on the process of completion and follow after you, Master?"

"Ah - we can never tell," said Hsu Y u. "I will just speak to you about the general outline. This Teacher of mine, this Teacher of mine - he passes judgment on the ten thousand things but he doesn't think himself righteous; his bounty extends to ten thousand generations but he doesn't think himself benevolent. He is older than the highest antiquity but he doesn't think himself long-lived; he covers heaven, bears up the earth, carves and fashions countless forms, but he doesn't think himself skilled. It is with him alone I wander."

~ Burton Watson translation ~
In my mind's eye, the best teachers are those who inspire us to experience life on our own terms and to ponder these experiences in our own ways.  It's not so much that they instruct about the "proper" methods of doing or thinking; it is more that they lead by example.

In all my years in school, my favorite teacher was a professor I had in grad school, Dr. Paul Zagorski.  Like most instructors, students were given reading assignments before each class, but we rarely talked specifically about what we had read.  Class discussions instead centered around applying the information gleaned from the reading assignments to current events and real life issues.  Zagorski wanted us to synthesize the information and then to apply it in our own individual ways.

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