Monday, December 23, 2013

Bit by Bit - Chapter 25, Part 13

Trey Smith

When Po Chu repeated his request, Lao Tan said, "Where will you go first?"

"I will begin with Ch'i." When he arrived in Ch'i, he saw the body of a criminal who had been executed. Pushing and dragging until he had it laid out in proper position, he took off his formal robes and covered it with them, wailing to Heaven and crying out, "Alas, alas! The world is in dire misfortune, and you have been quicker than the rest of us to encounter it. 'Thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not murder!' they say. But when glory and disgrace have once been defined, you will see suffering; when goods and wealth have once been gathered together, you will see wrangling. To define something that brings suffering to men, to gather together what sets them to wrangling, inflicting misery and weariness upon them, never granting them a time of rest, and yet to hope somehow that they will not end up like this - how could it be possible?

~ Burton Watson translation ~
I suppose that, in a "perfect" world, there would be no need for definitions. We humans would do what needed to be done and no more. We wouldn't need to be told what we had done was "good" or "right".

We don't live in that kind of world, though. Consequently, definitions are greatly needed.

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

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