Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Bit by Bit - Chapter 17, Part 20

Trey Smith

Kung-sun Lung said to Prince Mou of Wei, "When I was young I studied the Way of the former kings, and when I grew older I came to understand the conduct of benevolence and righteousness. I reconciled difference and sameness, distinguished hardness and whiteness, and proved that not so was so, that the unacceptable was acceptable. I confounded the wisdom of the hundred schools and demolished the arguments of a host of speakers. I believed that I had attained the highest degree of accomplishment. But now I have heard the words of Chuang Tzu and I am bewildered by their strangeness. I don't know whether my arguments are not as good as his, or whether I am no match for him in understanding. I find now that I can't even open my beak. May I ask what you advise?"

Prince Mou leaned on his armrest and gave a great sigh, and then he looked up at the sky and laughed, saying, "Haven't you ever heard about the frog in the caved-in well? He said to the great turtle of the Eastern Sea, `What fun I have! I come out and hop around the railing of the well, or I go back in and take a rest in the wall where a tile has fallen out. When I dive into the water, I let it hold me up under the armpits and support my chin, and when I slip about in the mud, I bury my feet in it and let it come up over my ankles. I look around at the mosquito larvae and the crabs and polliwogs and I see that none of them can match me. To have complete command of the water of one whole valley and to monopolize all the joys of a caved-in well-this is the best there is! Why don't you come some time and see for yourself?'

~ Burton Watson translation ~
This striving so many people have to hold power over others is pathetic. Such individuals spend their lives amassing power and fortune in the vain hope that they can become contemporary kings and queens. Yet, most of them are unable to rule themselves!

If you can't even rule yourself, how in the heck can you truly rule others?

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

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