02 May 2008

today's prayer... flight from benevolence...

my thanks to bob schenck for turning me on to this.

from "the way of chuang tzu" by thomas merton...]

Hsu Yu was met by a friend as he was leaving the capital city, on the main highway leading to the nearest frontier.

"Where are you going?" the friend asked.

"I am leaving King Yao. He is so obsessed with the ideas of benevolence that I am afraid something ridiculous will come of it. In any event, funny or not, this kind of thing eventually ends with people eating each other raw."

"At the moment, there is a great wave of solidarity. The people think they are loved, and they respond with enthusiasm. They are all behind the king because they thin he is making them rich. Praise is cheap, and they are all competing for favor. But soon they will have to accept something they do not like and the whole thing will collapse.

"When justice and benevolence are in the air, a few people are really concerned with the good of others, but the majority are aware that this is a good thing, ripe for exploitation. They take advantage of the situation. For them, benevolence and justice are traps to catch birds. Thus benevolence and justice rapidly come to be associated with fraud and hypocrisy. The everybody doubts. And that is when trouble really begins.

"King Yao knows how dutiful and upright officers benefit the nation, but he does not know harm comes from their uprightness: they are a front behind which crooks operate more securely. But you have to see this situation objectively to realize it.

"There are three classes of people to be taken into account: yes- men, blood- suckers, and operators.

"They yes- men adopt the line of some political leader, and repeat his statements by heart, imagining that they know something, confident that they are getting somewhere, and thoroughly satisfied with the sound of their own voices. They are complete fools. And because they are fools, they submit in this way to another man's line of talk.

"The blood- suckers are like lice on a sow. The rush together where the bristles are this, and this becomes their palace and their park. They delight in crevices, between the sow's toes, around the joints and teats, or under the tail. here they can entrench themselves and imagine they cannot be routed out by any power in the world. But they do not realize that one morning he butcher will come with knife and swinging scythe. He will collect dry straw and set it alight to singe away the bristles and burn out all the lice. Such parasites appear when the sow appears and vanish when the sow is slaughtered.

"Operators are men like Shun.

"Mutton is not attracted to ants, but ants are attracted to mutton, because it is high and rank. So Shun was vigorous and successful operator, and people liked him for it. Three times he moved from city to city and each time his new home became the capital. Eventually he moved out into the wilderness and there were a hundred thousand families that went with him to colonize the place.

"Finally, Yao put forward the idea that Shun ought to go out into the desert to see if he could make something out of that. Though by this time Shun was an old man and his mind was getting feeble, he could not refuse. He could not bring himself to retire. He had forgotten how to stop his wagon. He was an operator-- and nothing else!

"The man of spirit, on the other hand, hates to see people gather around him. He avoids the crowd. For where there are many men, there are also may opinions and little agreement. There is nothing to be gained from the support of a lot of half- wits who are doomed to end up in a fight with each other.

"The man of spirit is neither very intimate with anyone, nor very aloof. He keeps himself interiorly aware, and he maintains his balance so that he is in conflict with nobody. This is your true man! He lets the ants be clever. He lets the mutton reek with activity. For his own part, he imitates the fish that swims unconcerned, surrounded by a friendly element, and minding its own business.

"The true man sees what the eye sees, and does not add to it something that is not there. He hears what the ears hear, and does not detect imaginary undertones or overtones. He understands things in their obvious interpretation and is not busy with hidden meanings and mysteries. His course is therefore a straight line. Yet he can change his direction whenever circumstances suggest it."


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