Friday, November 15, 2013

Bit by Bit - Chapter 24, Part 4

Trey Smith

Hsu Wu-kuei was received in audience by Marquis Wu. "Sir," said Marquis Wu, "for a long time now you have lived in your mountain forest, eating acorns and chestnuts, getting along on wild leeks and scallions, and scorning me completely. Now is it old age, or perhaps a longing for the taste of meat and wine, that has brought you here? Or perhaps you have come to bring blessing to my altars of the soil and grain."

Hsu Wu-kuei said, "I was born to poverty and lowliness and have never ventured to eat or drink any of your wine or meat, my lord. I have come in order to comfort you."

"What?" said the ruler. "Why should you comfort me?"

"I want to bring comfort to your spirit and body."

"What do you mean by that?" asked Marquis Wu.

Hsi! Wu-kuei said, "Heaven and earth provide nourishment for all things alike. To have ascended to a high position cannot be considered an advantage; to live in lowliness cannot be considered a handicap. Now you, as sole ruler of this land of ten thousand chariots, may tax the resources of the entire populace of your realm in nourishing the appetites of your ears and eyes, your nose and mouth. But the spirit will not permit such a way of life. The spirit loves harmony and hates licentiousness. Licentiousness is a kind of sickness, and that is why I have come to offer my comfort. I just wonder, my lord, how aware you are of your own sickness."

~ Burton Watson translation ~
Most of the great religious and philosophic traditions have recognized that wealth -- particularly, great wealth -- is an impediment to leading a life of virtue. Wealth is the great distorter. It causes the world to look far different than it actually is. It takes one away from nature and replaces it with something decidedly artificial and arbitrary.

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

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