Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Bit by Bit - Chapter 10, Part 2

Trey Smith

Let me try explaining what I mean. What the ordinary world calls a wise man is in fact someone who piles things up for the benefit of a great thief, is he not? And what it calls a sage is in fact someone who stands guard for the benefit of a great thief, is he not? How do I know this is so? In times past there was the state of Ch'i, its neighboring towns within sight of each other, the cries of their dogs and chickens within hearing of each other. The area where its nets and seines were spread, where its plows and spades dug the earth, measured over two thousand li square, filling all the space within its four borders. And in the way its ancestral temples and its altars of the soil and grain were set up, its towns and villages and hamlets were governed, was there anything that did not accord with the laws of the sages? Yet one morning Viscount T'ien Ch'eng murdered the ruler of Ch'i and stole his state. And was it only the state he stole? Along with it he also stole the laws which the wisdom of the sages had devised. Thus, although Viscount T'ien Ch'eng gained the name of thief and bandit, he was able to rest as peacefully as a Yao or a Shun. The smaller states did not dare condemn him, the larger states did not dare to attack, and for twelve generations his family held possession of the state of Ch'i. Is this not a case in which a man, stealing the state of Ch'i, along with it stole the laws of the sages' wisdom and used them to guard the person of a thief and a bandit?
~ Burton Watson translation ~
As much as we like to pretend otherwise, life is filled with [apparent] contradictions. For me, this is one of the great lessons to be derived from both the Zhuangzi and the Tao Te Ching. It is when we take this lesson to heart that we learn that what we too often accept as unmitigated truth is nothing more than a superficial understanding of the situation or circumstance.

To view the Index page for this series, go here.

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