Thursday, September 22, 2011

Polite and present

Humans are always trying to figure how to live better.  Some have advocated keeping our eyes on the natural and tangible and forgetting about dreaming.  Others have gone for heavy-duty fantasizing and imagination.  I can see both sides and I dabble both ways.

Prof. Grant Hardy states that Confucius was the most influential person who ever lived.  You could doubt that and argue with it but it is difficult to conclude anything but that this man indeed had enormous influence, whether measured by centuries or number of minds influenced.  The writings called the Analects of Confucius are understood to be sayings of his, collected by students many years after working with him, much as writings about Jesus were written decades after his life.

Confucius wanted to be a government official but never really had a good post of that kind.  It was the highest calling in that time and place.  He lived about 500 years before Jesus, roughly the amount of time we are separated from Columbus.  He emphasized the need for,  and value of, propriety and civility.  Appropriate manners and good behavior, such as practicing the Golden Rule, were valuable tools for getting along with others then, just as they are now.

Humans often get curious about the meaning of death and what happens after death.  Confucius said,"How can we worry about the afterlife when we don't know how to live our present life?" Modern thinkers, even those very respectful of his wisdom and sincerity, would probably not be put off by a question.  Over the course of human existence, many have developed theories and answers to his question, even though we still don't know entirely know how to live our lives, nor what comes after them.

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