He' sure got a lot of gall / to be so useless and all / muttering small talk at the wall . . . [Dylan]
Confucius Remains Relevant
Adept Lu said: "If the Lord of Wei wanted you to govern his country, what would you put first in importance?"
"The rectification of names," replied the Master. "Without a doubt."
"That's crazy!" countered Lu. "What does rectification of names have to do with anything?"
"You're such an uncivil slob," said the Master. "When the noble-minded can't understand something, they remain silent.
Listen. If names aren't rectified, speech doesn't follow from reality. If speech doesn't follow from reality, endeavors never come to fruition. If endeavors never come to fruition, then Ritual and music cannot flourish. If Ritual and music cannot flourish, punishments don't fit the crime. If punishments don't fit the crime, people can't put their hands and feet anywhere without fear of losing them.
"Naming enables the noble-minded to speak, and speech enables the noble-minded to act. Therefore, the noble-minded are anything but careless in speech." . . . The Master said: "Once you have rectified yourself, you can serve in government without difficulty. But if you haven't rectified yourself, how can you rectify the people?" Â [Analects XIII]
From:Â The Four Chinese Classics:Tao Te Ching, Analects, Chuang Tzu, Mencius (Trans. David Hinton)
Joseph Duemer is Professor of Literature Emeritus at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press. Since the mid-1990s he has spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. He lives with his wife Carole & five terriers (four Jack Russells & one Patterdale) on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.
View all posts by jd