commitment.jpg

Commitment

Contemplate the heavens, then devote yourself to contemplating the world around you, then acknowledge the nature of the bounty of the earth, then join with life. Can you be like wind and waves whose only desire is to become one?

Now contemplate a son who succeeds his father. Let's call him a dutiful son. And a vassal who succeeds his lord, let's call him a usurper. How can a usurper be praised? King Wu was one.

Now ask yourself how we can avoid sophistry and still prove that we share the same principles as our fellow human beings.

Now my answer is that devotion to logical reasoning explains a descent into madness, and that cultivation of moral conduct pays homage to a principle of oppression, and that pursuit of fame and fortune is characterized by an abundance of fear and anxiety. Pointing out these cycles of subjectivity is just my way of acknowledging their reality within each and every one of us.

滿 滿 退 And finally, contemplate the danger of making decisions based on ambition, and that it's best to avoid a reputation as an ambitious social climber, and that a reputation for stepping up when needed, then stepping down, reflects a universal principle that plays out in the heavens.

滿 You should never serve the government of an overly ambitious state. 滿 You should never marry into an overly ambitious family. You should never fall in with proud, arrogant, ruthless, violent people.

Notes

I started looking at this passage because I was struck by how close it is in theme and vocabulary to Daodejing chapter 9.

King Wu was the great hero who overthrew the last corrupt king of the Shang. The argument that follows seems to justify Wu's revolution as it warns us of the dangers of personal ambition, counsels us to avoid tyrants if possible, and subtly encourages us, like Wu, to stand up to them when necessary.

The header image is an illustration of a qiqi, a vessel balanced to be upright when empty, but to empty suddenly when full.

Vocabulary

tiān
大 37 + 1
sky, heaven; god, celestial
zhī
丿 4 + 3
marks preceding phrase as modifier of following phrase; it, him her, them; go to
shì
示 113 + 7
look at, inspect, observe, see
ér
而 126 + 0
and; and then; and yet; but
jīng
米 119 + 8
essence; semen; spirit
囗 31 + 2
four
玉 96 + 13
piece of jade with hole in it
zhī
矢 111 + 3
know, perceive, comprehend
qǐng
言 149 + 8
ask, request; invite; please
rǎng
土 32 + 17
soil, loam, earth; rich
土 32 + 0
soil, earth; items made of earth
臼 134 + 8
and; with; to; for; give, grant
shēng
生 100 + 0
life, living, lifetime; birth
néng
肉 130 + 6
to be able; can, permitted to; ability
ruò
艸 140 + 5
if, supposing, assuming; similar
大 37 + 1
man, male adult, husband; those
fēng
風 182 + 0
wind; air; manners, atmosphere
水 85 + 5
waves, breakers; undulations
丿 4 + 4
interrogative or exclamatory final particle
wéi
口 30 + 8
only; yes
八 12 + 6
his, her, its, their; that
suǒ
戶 63 + 4
place, location; numerary adjunct
欠 76 + 7
desire, want, long for; intend
shì
辵 162 + 11
match, comfortable; just
攴 66 + 5
ancient, old; reason, because
zi
子 39 + 0
offspring, child; fruit, seed of; 1st terrestrial branch
dài
人 9 + 3
replace, replacement (of person or generation); era, generation
父 88 + 0
father; KangXi radical 88
yuē
曰 73 + 0
say; KangXi radical 73
羊 123 + 7
right conduct, righteousness
乙 5 + 2
also; classical final particle of strong affirmation or identity
chén
臣 131 + 0
minister, statesman, official
jūn
口 30 + 4
sovereign, monarch, ruler, chief, prince
cuàn
竹 118 + 10
usurp
人 9 + 5
what, why, where, which, how
欠 76 + 10
song, lyrics; sing, chant; praise
止 77 + 4
military; martial, warlike
wáng
玉 96 + -1
king, ruler; royal; surname
shì
日 72 + 5
indeed, yes, right; to be; demonstrative pronoun, this, that
yōng
广 53 + 8
usual, common, ordinary, mediocre
厶 28 + 3
go away, leave, depart
biàn
辛 160 + 14
dispute, argue, debate, discuss
qiǎo
工 48 + 2
skillful, ingenious, clever
hái
辵 162 + 13
still, yet, also, besides
zhòng
目 109 + 6
masses, people, multitude, crowd
rén
人 9 + 0
man; people; mankind; someone else
tóng
口 30 + 3
same, similar; together with
dào
辵 162 + 9
path, road, street; method, way
心 61 + 5
think, consider, ponder; final particle
suǒ
糸 120 + 4
large rope, cable; rules, laws; to demand, to exact; to search, inquire; isolated
zhě
老 125 + 4
that which; he who; those who
míng
日 72 + 4
bright, light, brilliant; clear
皿 108 + 5
profit, benefit; advantage
shuāi
衣 145 + 4
decline, falter, decrease; weaken
彳 60 + 12
ethics, morality, virtue
xíng
行 144 + 0
go; walk; move, travel; circulate
xiū
人 9 + 8
study; repair; cultivate
xiá
犬 94 + 7
narrow, limited; narrow-minded; to pinch
臣 131 + 2
lie down; crouch
míng
口 30 + 3
name, rank, title, position
刀 18 + 5
gains, advantage, profit, merit
xiě
宀 40 + 12
write; draw, sketch; compose
wēi
卩 26 + 4
dangerous, precarious; high
zhōu
口 30 + 5
Zhou dynasty; circumference
方 70 + 4
in, at, on; interjection alas!
liù
八 12 + 2
number six
口 30 + 3
combine, unite, join; gather
nèi
入 11 + 2
inside, interior; domestic
口 30 + 4
i, my, our; resist, impede
yǒu
月 74 + 2
have, own, possess; exist
wèi
火 86 + 5
do, handle, govern, act; be
阜 170 + 5
impede, hinder, obstruct; oppose
chí
手 64 + 6
sustain, support; hold, grasp
滿
mǎn
水 85 + 11
fill; full, satisfied
nǎi
丿 4 + 1
then; really, indeed; as it turned out, after all; namely
dài
歹 78 + 5
dangerous, perilous; endanger
xià
一 1 + 2
under, underneath, below; down; inferior; bring down
一 1 + 3
no, not; un-; negative prefix
己 49 + 0
already; finished; stop
jìn
辵 162 + 8
advance, make progress, enter
shēn
身 158 + 0
body; trunk, hull; rad. no. 158
退
tuì
辵 162 + 6
step back, retreat, withdraw
shèng
皿 108 + 6
abundant, flourishing; contain; fill
guó
囗 31 + 8
nation, country, nation-state
口 30 + 2
may, can, -able; possibly
人 9 + 3
by means of; thereby, therefore; consider as; in order to
shì
人 9 + 3
official; serve government
rèn
人 9 + 4
trust to, rely on, appoint; to bear, duty, office; allow
jiā
宀 40 + 7
house, home, residence; family
jià
女 38 + 10
to marry, give a daughter in marriage
jiāo
馬 187 + 12
spirited horse; haughty
人 9 + 8
arrogant, haughty, rude
ào
人 9 + 11
proud, haughty, overbearing
bào
日 72 + 11
violent, brutal, tyrannical
jiāo
亠 8 + 4
mix; intersect; exchange, communicate; deliver