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Again, he does not choose his ruler, but he must still obey him. Being born to certain parents and being under the authority of a certain ruler is fate. One cannot fight against it.
Building upon the comparisons of these two relationships, Confucius then describes another, the relationship one has with one's mind:
'…[S]erve your own mind so that sadness or joy do not sway or move it; to understand what you can do nothing about and to be content with it as with fate this is the perfection of virtue. As a subject and a son, you are bound to find things you cannot avoid. If you act in accordance with the state of affairs and forget about yourself, then what leisure will you have to love life and hate death? Act in this way, and you will be all right.' (60)
It may seem as if Chuang Tsu contradicts himself by suggesting one "serve the mind," when earlier, in Yen Hui's parable, he urges that one should ignore it. However, the advice is quite similar. He says to serve the mind "so that sadness or joy do not sway or move it." Human beings are easily swayed by their emotions, products of the mind. It is easy to find joy in obeying one's parents, while serving a ruler can bring sadness. Chuang Tsu is saying that no matter how pleasurable or how painful the emotions, they should be ignored. In other words, the mind still needs to be ignored, as well. The mind recognizes certain relationships as pleasurable or difficult and uses that knowledge to produce the corresponding emotions of joy and sadness. For this reason, Tuz-kao, or any follower of the Way, must "forget…yourself" while carrying out duties. Again, one cannot focus on the known or unknown or whether one has a choice in one's circumstances. If one always focuses on receiving answers from the spirit, that part of oneself that does not have preconceived notions in how to respond or act, one can be free of the burdens of internal conflicts and worry.
After Confucius explains how Tzu-kao can avoid sickness through imbalance, he then speaks more generally on human relationships and how people communicate with each other. As this relates to Tzu-kao, he will need to be careful in how he talks to other men. However, no matter one's situation and whether one knows the person one communicates with or not, the comparisons and aphorisms in this section can be applied to any situation. First, Confucius addresses how difficult it is to "transmit words that are pleasing to both parties or infuriating to both parties'" (60). He asserts that there must be exaggeration, or an over willingness to please the other, when both parties agree, and an over willingness to focus on disagreements when the parties disagree. This is an important illustration for Tzu-kao because he will be communicating with men who may either agree or disagree with him. To avoid exaggeration, Chuang Tsu has Confucius recite an aphorism, or a known and respected adage to transmit "established facts" and not "words of exaggeration" (60).
Second, Confucius describes what usually occurs in competition, whether that competition is physical sport or drinking. What begins as friendly or orderly leads to ill will and deceit. The very nature of the competition and desire to win draws this out of people and overwhelms them. Confucius goes on to finish this section by comparing words to "wind and waves'" and says "actions are a matter of gain and loss'" (61). The effects of what people say can be unpredictable, just as wind and waves are. Words have emotional impact. They can be soothing like a breeze or light current, or they can cause great damage like a cyclone or maelstrom. If people are led by their minds and follow their emotions, what they hear, especially if they do not agree with it, can bring the worst out of them. Not knowing the origins of these turbulent emotions will keep them from being able to control their behavior: "if you press them too hard, [men] are bound to answer you with ill-natured hearts. If they themselves do not understand why they behave like this, then who knows where it will end?'" (61).
Chuang Tsu utilizes recognizable aphorisms here, and he explains them by describing human behaviors while communicating (over exaggeration, competitiveness, and responding in great anger). The final aphorism of the section teaches the way to avoid these problems by completing only what is expected of one and not pushing people to agree. Confucius then states, "To go beyond the limit is excess; to deviate from orders or press for completion is a dangerous thing'" (61). Now Chuang Tsu has returned to his initial argument that one must carry out one's duty while forgetting oneself. It can be easy for one to be drawn into competition and need to "win" an argument by pressing someone to agree or disagree, whether one has no choice in engaging in the situation or not. The solution to not deviating from orders is not relying upon the mind: "Just go along with things and let your mind move freely. Resign yourself to what cannot be avoided and nourish what is within you'" (61). Chuang Tsu literally says to "go with the flow." One should not try to fight one's circumstances because they are unavoidable fate; one must be still, turn inwardly, and rely on the spirit, the empty locked room, to guide.
"In the World of Men's" Yen Hui and Tzu-kao serve as examples for followers of the Way. Tzu-kao does not have a choice and must follow orders, while Yen Hui has the freedom to make a decision. The scenarios found within both of these parables are relatable to many of life's circumstances, whether avoidable or unavoidable, certain or uncertain. Using Confucius as a reputable and trusted figure, Chuang Tsu clarifies how one can follow the Way in any circumstance through metaphors, direct comparisons, and aphorisms. These techniques explain and illustrate how one can successfully follow the Way, no matter the situation or predicament. A philosophy's teachings are abstract; it can be difficult to understand them and realize how they relate to oneself. In his parables, Chuang Tsu demystifies the Way and reliance upon one's spirit for insight by making the abstract applicable and practical.
Chuang Tsu. The Complete Works of Chuang Tsu. Trans. Burton Watson.…[continue]
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