Sunday, December 1, 2013

Bit by Bit - Chapter 24, Part 20

Trey Smith

Nieh Ch'ueh happened to meet Hsi! Yu. "Where are you going?" he asked.

"I'm running away from Yao."

"Why is that?"

"Because Yao is so earnestly and everlastingly benevolent! I'm afraid he'll make himself the laughing stock of the world. In later ages men may even end up eating each other because of him! There is nothing difficult about attracting the people. Love them and they will feel affection for you, benefit them and they will flock to you, praise them and they will do their best, do something they dislike and they will scatter. Love and benefit are the products of benevolence and righteousness. There are few men who will renounce benevolence and righteousness, but many who will seek to benefit by them. To practice benevolence and righteousness in such a fashion is at best a form of insincerity, at worst a deliberate lending of weapons to the evil and rapacious. Moreover, to have one man laying down decisions and regulations for the `benefit' of the world is like trying to take in everything at a single glance. Yao understands that the worthy man can benefit the world, but he does not understand that he can also ruin the world. Only a man who has gotten outside the realm of `worthiness' can understand that!"

~ Burton Watson translation ~
When I read passages such as this one, it reminds me that benevolence -- just like almost everything else -- is based on calculus: how much or how little a person must do in an attempt to achieve a desired action or effect. The idealized sage would eschew ego-based calculations because they negate the purity (for lack of a better word) of the action undertaken.

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

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