May 11, 2008

Deception, trickery, vanity, falsehood

It turns out I highlighted all the right sections in that history of ancient Chinese philosophy. Right in that they still make sense and seem to be the important things on each page, although it's notable that despite all that's happened to me in the 11 yrs since I read the book - the changes I thought I'd gone through - I'm still turned on by things that make a case for inaction, disengagement and ease.

Digression. When I was a child I heard about Howard Hughes and wanted more than anything to be a millionaire recluse, and when that began to recede from probability I thought about being a monk, like Thomas Merton, and then - due to lack of belief - extreme criminality seemed to be a way that would yield an impregnable hermitage. As a halfway house I live in Taiwan, where I can move around as abstract as I choose.

He died in Bangkok on 10 December 1968, having touched a poorly grounded electric fan while stepping out of his bath.
Wikipedia on Merton
Still, the dominant themes in Taiwanese life are more Confucian than Taoist - lots of rituals, rules and hierarchies. Having said that, chaos and going with the flow are clearly the ruling spirits on the roads.
Now let me tell you what man essentially is. The eyes desire to look on beauty, the ears to listen to music, the mouth to discern flavors, intent and energy to find fulfillment. Long life for man is at most a hundred years , and the mean eighty, at the least sixty; excluding sickness and hardship, bereavement and mourning, worries and troubles, the days left to us to open our mouths in a smile will in the course of a month be four or five at most. Heaven and earth are boundless, man’s death has its time, when he takes up that life provided for a time to lodge in the midst of the boundless, his passing is as sudden as a thoroughbred steed galloping past a chink in the wall. Whoever cannot gratify his intents and fancies and find nurture for the years destined fro him, is not the man who has fathomed the Way.

Everything you say I reject. Away with you, quick, run back home, not a word more about it. Your Way is a crazy obsession, a thing of deception, trickery, vanity, falsehood. It will not serve to keep the genuine in us intact, what is there to discuss?
“Robber Zhi” to a Confucian, Zhuangzi 29:48–53,
from Disputers of the Tao, p64


Anonymous said...

The Art of Wordly Wisdom by Baltasar Gracian. Twice?

PS said...

Not familiar with it, but thanks for the comment.