Thursday, October 13, 2005

Happy Confucius' Birthday! I'm a Dunce.

1) Today in Hong Kong, they celebrate what is, if this web site is correct, his 2557th bday. I took the opportunity to scan some of the verses there and found they included lots of talk about fitness for various positions of authority as well as serving one's parents and the perfect commonwealth state which startled me some. I confess I know little about Confucianism, and being ignorant, was unable to quickly locate something pithy and apt, although I did learn enough to realize I'd misunderstood it even in generalities. My quick looksee surprised me. What I may have misinterpreted read as harmonious concord with the principles of Communism. Conformance is revered, disorder hated, wealth disdained, "benevolence" vaunted. It reflects much municipal concern with a desire for absorption into some higher figure's principles be it father or lord. I think I'm more of a Lao-Tzu type myself.

Turning instead to a site about that sage who was a contemporary of Confucius, I read: "In him I have seen the dragon that rides on the cloudy air," replied Confucius. "My mouth fell open and I was unable to shut it... "... After another crushing visit he admitted: "In the knowledge of the Tao am I any better than a tiny creature in vinegar?" A final episode shows him becoming virtually a disciple of Lao Tzu. These accounts are, of course, Taoist propaganda. In reality Confucius would have regarded Lao Tzu as a dangerous threat to established custom and filial piety. The Tao te Ching contains not a single word about either of these central Confucian concepts. Indeed by stressing spontaneity and harmony with nature, it represents a rebellion against Confucian obsession with form and duty. But Taoism did alter the course of Confucianism, leading to the synthesis of neo-Confucianism in thinkers like Chang Tsai. It also moulded the shape of East Asian Buddhism, giving Buddhism a much less negative stance to the world.

Well, I might have been right with my kneejerk take on the big C, but nonetheless, I've learned what an idiot I am about Chinese history and philosophy. If I ever find myself subject to ennui and atrophy, please remind me how much territory in eons and miles there is yet for me to study.

2) Here's a Wired article about how people of both African and Native American descent, some raised within their tribes, are having trouble sharing in the casino earnings because of bad recordkeeping by lazy government employees (even in the golden past, such have existed). Judged by their skin color and facial structure, now these people fight for their identities based on DNA tests. Should proving your racial heritage be such a big deal in America? My previous thoughts on the execrable Native Hawaiian bill are here and here, because I couldn't help but wonder if this is the kind of thing what we want happening around the country with people of Hawaiian descent?

And that's all I've got time for. I'm on the run, again!

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