The Mengzi


My friend T. read my post on Confucius and pointed me to this TEDx talk on spontaneous action and the ancient Chinese philosophers. It's a wonderful talk — in particular, I love the mention of Mindball, the game you win only if you don't try to win — but I'm grateful to it as well for reminding me of Mencius, a later Confucian author as Zhuangzi is a later Taoist.

So while I'm on the apology tour to the Confucians, here are some quotes I like from the Mengzi

On the worth of education:

They alone are men of education who, without a certain livelihood, are able to maintain a fixed heart.

Simple things are fundamental, but that doesn't make them easy:

Mencius replied, 'The way of truth is like a great road. It is not difficult to know it. The evil is only that men will not seek it. Do you go home and search for it, and you will have abundance of teachers.'

On effort and striving:

He who exerts his mind to the utmost knows his nature.

But balance it with the simple wonder of it all:

The great man is the one who does not lose his child's heart.

And likewise:

If the king loves music, there is little wrong in the land.

The last reminds me of a comic I read when I was younger, a fictionalized retelling of the life of Samudragupta. Though second in line to the throne, it was his sensitive heart and his love of music and the arts that convinced his father to name him heir apparent. And as he started his major military campaigns, he vowed to hang up his lyre until his work was done. A precursor of this is perhaps found in the life of Cincinnatus, the Roman leader who abandoned his political claims to return to a simple life on his farm.

For further reading:

(Is this post all over? So be it! A good meander is good for the soul.)