When Confucius was passing through K’uang, the men of Sung surrounded him with several encirclements of troops, but he went right on playing his lute and singing without a stop. Tzu Lu went in to see him and said, "Master, how can you be so carefree?"I am not one who believes in kismet. In my view, nothing in life is preordained (except, maybe, death). Each of our lives will have highs and lows, regardless of how well we plan. Sometimes shit happens!
Confucius said, "Come, I will explain to you. For a long time I have tried to stay out of the way of hardship. That I have not managed to escape it is due to fate. For a long time I have tried to achieve success. That I have not been able to do so is due to the times. If it happens to be the age of a Yao or a Shun, then there are no men in the world who face hardship - but this is not because their wisdom saves them. If it happens to be the age of a Chieh or a Chou, then there are no men in the world who achieve success - but this is not because their wisdom fails them. It is time and circumstance that make it so.
"To travel across the water without shrinking from the sea serpent or the dragon - this is the courage of the fisherman. To travel over land without shrinking from the rhinoceros or the tiger - this is the courage of the hunter. To see the bare blades clashing before him and to look upon death as though it were life - this is the courage of the man of ardor. To understand that hardship is a matter of fate, that success is a matter of the times, and to face great difficulty without fear - this is the courage of the sage. Be content with it, Tzu Lu. My fate has been decided for me."
Shortly afterwards the leader of the armed men came forward and apologized. "We thought you were Yang Huo and that was why we surrounded you. Now that we see you aren't, we beg to take leave and withdraw."
~ Burton Watson translation ~
In many cases, however, we plant the seeds of our own misfortune. We make a serious of poor decisions -- some may seem like trivial ones -- and they add up to some sort of later cataclysm. We call it dumb luck, but if we were able to pull back to see the whole picture, we would discover that luck or fate had little to do with it.
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