THE BREVITY OF CONSCIOUS LIFE
YANG CHU said:
"One hundred years is the limit of a long life. Not one in a thousand ever attains to it. Yet if they do, still unconscious infancy and old age take up about half this time.
"The time he passes unconsciously while asleep at night, and that which is wasted though awake during the day, also amounts to another half of the rest. Again pain and sickness, sorrow and fear, fill up about a half, so that he really gets only ten years or so for his enjoyment. And even then there is not one hour free from some anxiety.
"What then is the object of human life? What makes it pleasant? Comfort and elegance, music and beauty. Yet one cannot always gratify the desire for comfort and elegance nor incessantly enjoy beauty and music.
"Besides, being warned and exhorted by punishments and rewards, urged forward and repelled by fame and laws, men are constantly rendered anxious. Striving for one vain hour of glory and providing for the splendor which is to survive their death, they go their own solitary ways, analyzing what they hear with their ears and see with their eyes, and carefully considering what is good for body and mind; so they lose the happiest moments of the present, and cannot really give way to these feelings for one hour.
"How do they really differ from chained criminals?
"The Ancients knew that all creatures enter but for a short while into life, and must suddenly depart in death. Therefore they gave way to their impulses and did not check their natural propensities.
"They denied themselves nothing that could give pleasure to their bodies; consequently, as they were not seeking fame. but were following their own nature, they went smoothly on, never at variance with their inclinations. They did not seek for posthumous fame. They neither did anything criminal, and of glory and fame, rank and position, as well as of the span of their life they took no heed."
Translator of Yang Zhu's Garden of Pleasure is Anton Forke. If you missed any posts in this series, please utilize the Yang Zhu label below.