Saturday, October 19, 2013

Bit by Bit - Chapter 23, Part 1

Trey Smith

Among the attendants of Lao Tan was one Keng-sang Ch'u, who had mastered a portion of the Way of Lao Tan, and with it went north to live among the Mountains of Zigzag. His servants with their bright and knowing looks he discharged; his concubines with their tender and solicitous ways he put far away from him. Instead he shared his house with drabs and dowdies, and employed the idle and indolent to wait on him. He had been living there three years when Zigzag began to enjoy bountiful harvests, and the people of Zigzag said to one another, "When Master Keng-sang first came among us, we were highly suspicious of him. But now, if we figure by the day, there never seems to be enough, but if we figure by the year, there's always some left over! It might just be that he's a sage! Why don't we make him our impersonator of the dead and pray to him, turn over to him our altars of the soil and grain?"

When Master Keng-sang heard this, he faced south with a look of displeasure. His disciples thought this strange, but Master Keng-sang said, "Why should you wonder that I am displeased? When the breath of spring comes forth, the hundred grasses begin to grow, and later, when autumn visits them, their ten thousand fruits swell and ripen. Yet how could spring and autumn do other than they do? - the Way of Heaven has already set them in motion. I have heard that the Perfect Man dwells corpse-like in his little four-walled room, leaving the hundred clans to their uncouth and uncaring ways, not knowing where they are going, where they are headed. But now these petty people of Zigzag in their officious and busy-body fashion want to bring their sacrificial stands and platters and make me one of their `worthies'! Am I to be held up as a model for men? That is why, remembering the words of Lao Tan, I am so displeased!"

~ Burton Watson translation ~
Each of us wants to be successful in our endeavors and yet success often brings about complacency. We become too caught up in ourselves and forget the struggle it took to get there. We look at others engaged in those same struggles without compassion.

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

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