Saturday, April 13, 2013

Bit by Bit - Chapter 12, Part 16

Trey Smith

Tzu-kung blushed with chagrin, looked down, and made no reply. After a while, the gardener said, "Who are you, anyway?"

"A disciple of Kung Ch'iu."

"Oh - then you must be one of those who broaden their learning in order to ape the sages, heaping absurd nonsense on the crowd, plucking the strings and singing sad songs all by yourself in hopes of buying fame in the world! You would do best to forget your spirit and breath, break up your body and limbs - then you might be able to get somewhere. You don't even know how to look after your own body - how do you have any time to think about looking after the world! On your way now! Don't interfere with my work!"

Tzu-kung frowned and the color drained from his face. Dazed and rattled, he couldn't seem to pull himself together, and it was only after he had walked on for some thirty li that he began to recover.

One of his disciples said, "Who was that man just now? Why did you change your expression and lose your color like that, Master, so that it took you all day to get back to normal?"

"I used to think there was only one real man in the world," said Tzu-kung. "I didn't know there was this other one. I have heard Confucius say that in affairs you aim for what is right, and in undertakings you aim for success. To spend little effort and achieve big results - that is the Way of the sage. Now it seems that this isn't so. He who holds fast to the Way is complete in Virtue; being complete in Virtue, he is complete in body; being complete in body, he is complete in spirit; and to be complete in spirit is the Way of the sage. He is content to live among the people, to walk by their side, and never know where he is going. Witless, his purity is complete. Achievement, profit, machines, skill - they have no place in this man's mind! A man like this will not go where he has no will to go, will not do what he has no mind to do. Though the world might praise him and say he had really found something, he would look unconcerned and never turn his head; though the world might condemn him and say he had lost something, he would look serene and pay no heed. The praise and blame of the world are no loss or gain to him. He may be called a man of Complete Virtue. I - I am a man of the wind-blown waves."

~ Burton Watson translation ~
Self-confidence both can be good and bad. On the positive side, we each need enough of it to have the courage to venture out into the world. Individuals lacking in self-confidence often are their own worst enemies as they thwart their own chances of success.

But there is a negative side as well. When we become too full of ourselves, we start to think of ourselves as something akin to gods. We don't listen to any other opinions and we come to believe that the way we see things is the way things are. Sometimes, if we happen to be charismatic, we are able to convince others that we are far superior to them and cause them to doubt who they are.

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

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