Thursday, November 14, 2013

Bit by Bit - Chapter 24, Part 3

Trey Smith

When Hsu Wu-kuei emerged from the interview, Nu Shang said, "Sir, may I ask what you were talking to our ruler about? When I talk to him, I talk to him back and forth about the Odes and Documents, about ritual and music; and then I talk to him up and down about the Golden Tablets and the Six Bow-cases. I have made proposals that led to outstanding success in more cases than can be counted, and yet he never so much as bared his teeth in a smile. Now what were you talking to him about that you managed to delight him in this fashion?"

Hsu Wu-kuei said, "I was merely explaining to him how I judge dogs and horses, that was all."

"Was that all?" said Nu Shang.

"Haven't you ever heard about the men who are exiled to Yueh?'' said Hsu Wu-kuei. "A few days after they have left their homelands, they are delighted if they come across an old acquaintance. When a few weeks or a month have passed, they are delighted if they come across someone they had known by sight when they were at home. And by the time a year has passed, they are delighted if they come across someone who even looks as though he might be a countryman. The longer they are away from their countrymen, the more deeply they long for them -- isn't that it? A man who has fled into the wilderness, where goosefoot and woodbine tangle the little trails of the polecat and the weasel, and has lived there in emptiness and isolation for a long time, will be delighted if he hears so much as the rustle of a human footfall. And how much more so if he hears his own brothers and kin chattering and laughing at his side! It has been a long time, I think, since one who speaks like a True Man has sat chattering and laughing at our ruler's side."

~ Burton Watson translation ~
There you have it. If you want to impress the president or your local mayor, don't talk to him/her about public policy or your political perspective. No, you'll make a much better impression if you talk about dogs and horses!

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

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