Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Bit by Bit - Chapter 21, Part 10

Trey Smith

Chuang Tzu went to see Duke Ai of Lu. Duke Ai said, "We have a great many Confucians here in the state of Lu, but there seem to be very few men who study your methods, Sir!"

"There are few Confucians in the state of Lu!" said Chuang Tzu.

"But the whole state of Lu is dressed in Confucian garb!" said Duke Ai. "How can you say they are few?"

"I have heard," said Chuang Tzu, "that the Confucians wear round caps on their heads to show that they understand the cycles of heaven, that they walk about in square shoes to show that they understand the shape of the earth, and that they tie ornaments in the shape of a broken disc at their girdles in order to show that, when the time comes for decisive action, they must `make the break.' But a gentleman may embrace a doctrine without necessarily wearing the garb that goes with it, and he may wear the garb without necessarily comprehending the doctrine. If Your Grace does not believe this is so, then why not try issuing an order to the state proclaiming: `All those who wear the garb without practicing the doctrine that goes with it will be sentenced to death!' "

Duke Ai did in fact issue such an order, and within five days there was no one in the state of Lu who dared wear Confucian garb. Only one old man came in Confucian dress and stood in front of the duke's gate. The duke at once summoned him and questioned him on affairs of state and, though the discussion took a thousand turnings and ten thousand shifts, the old man was never at a loss for words. Chuang Tzu said, "In the whole state of Lu, then, there is only one man who is a real Confucian. How can you say there are a great many of them?"

~ Burton Watson translation ~
Many people talk the talk without walking the walk! This blog's central theme is Taoism and yet there are no true Taoist writers here. (We're bumbling along just like everyone else.)

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

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