Monday, February 11, 2013

Bit by Bit - Chapter 8, Part 8

Trey Smith

The slave boy and the slave girl were out together herding their sheep, and both of them lost their flocks. Ask the slave boy how it happened: well, he had a bundle of writing slips and was reading a book. Ask the slave girl how it happened: well, she was playing a game of toss-and-wait-your-turn. They went about the business in different ways, but in losing their sheep they were equal. Po Yi died for reputation at the foot of Shou-yang mountain; Robber Chih died for gain on top of Eastern Mound. The two of them died different deaths, but in destroying their lives and blighting their inborn nature they were equal. Why then must we say that Po Yi was right and Robber Chih wrong?

Everyone in the world risks his life for something. If he risks it for benevolence and righteousness, then custom names him a gentleman; if he risks it for goods and wealth, then custom names him a petty man. The risking is the same, and yet we have a gentleman here, a petty man there. In destroying their lives and blighting their inborn nature, Robber Chih and Po Yi were two of a kind. How then can we pick out the gentleman from the petty man in such a case?

~ Burton Watson translation ~
In death, each of us is the same. No matter how we lived -- rich or poor, good or bad, loving or hateful -- we die alone.

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

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