Sunday, October 20, 2013

Bit by Bit - Chapter 23, Part 2

Trey Smith

"But there's no need for that!" said his disciples. "In a ditch eight or sixteen feet wide the really big fish doesn't even have room to turn around, yet the minnows and loaches think it ample. On a knoll no more than five or ten paces in height the really big animal doesn't even have room to hide, yet the wily foxes think it ideal. Moreover, to honor the worthy and assign office to the able, according them precedence and conferring benefits on them - this has been the custom from the ancient days of the sages Yao and Shun. How much more so, then, should it be the custom among the common people of Zigzag. Why not go ahead and heed their demands, Master?"

Master Keng-sang said, "Come nearer, my little ones! A beast large enough to gulp down a carriage, if he sets off alone and leaves the mountains, cannot escape the perils of net and snare; a fish large enough to swallow a boat, if he is tossed up by the waves and left stranded, is bound to fall victim to ants and crickets. Therefore birds and beasts don't mind how high they climb to escape danger, fish and turtles don't mind how deep they dive. So the man who would preserve his body and life must think only of how to hide himself away, not minding how remote or secluded the spot may be.

~ Burton Watson translation ~
No matter how high we climb or how strong we become, there are a multiple of variables that can lead to our downfall. We are much more likely to be struck down if we become complacent about where we are or how we got there.

Think of a baseball player who has become renowned for being a great fielder. What got him there was practicing the fundamentals of his craft hour after hour and day after day. Once he reaches the pinnacle of his sport, he starts to believe his own press clippings. He stops practicing the fundamentals and soon he is no longer such a slick fielder!

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

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