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Posts by Alice Lin
Legend has it that a student once asked Zeno: “Teacher, your knowledge is many times more than ours. The question you answered is correct, but why are you so humble? ”
Zeno drew one small and one big circle on the blackboard and said: “Our knowledge is like a circle. Inside the circle are things you know about, and outside the circle are things you don’t know. The area of the big circle is my knowledge, the area of the small circle is your knowledge, so my knowledge is more than yours.
But outside these two circles are things you and I don’t know. The circumference of the big circle is larger than that of the small circle so that I may have more knowledge, but I also realize that there is still more I do not know. This is why I am humble. ”
Socrates said, “All I know is that I know nothing.”He implies that the more people know, the more they understand their ignorance. Even the largest circles still cannot compare with the blank space outside. The more knowledge they accumulate, the more aware they become. Space is infinite even though the circles are big. So the more knowledgeable people are, the more they know that they do not know enough.
In another word, a person with a large circle knows a lot but also knows there are still things they don’t know, so they have to be humble. A person with a small circle knows only a little, so they think the whole world is in their hands.
Zeno of Elea was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher of Magna Graecia and a member of the Eleatic School founded by Parmenides. Aristotle called him the inventor of dialectic. He is best known for his paradoxes, which Bertrand Russell has described as “immeasurably subtle and profound.”
We go from birth to death.
Three out of ten follow life.
Three out of ten follow death.
People who rush from birth to death
Are also three out of ten.
Why is that so?
Because they want to make too much of life.
I have heard that the one who knows how to live
Can wander through the land
Without encountering the rhinoceros or the tiger.
He passes the battlefield
Without being struck by weapons.
In him, the rhinoceros finds no opening for its horn.
The tiger finds no opening for its claws.
The soldiers find no opening for their blades.
Why is that so?
Death has no place in him.
(Translation by Stefan Stenudd.)
People first born out of the world eventually died and buried on the ground. Three- tenths of those who belong to longevity; three-tenths belong to short-lived people; some could have lived longer, but they made their way to death, also making them three-tenths. Why is this so? Because they overdid everything (such as overcaring, over struggling, over rushing, overindulging…).
There is the remaining one-tenth of people who are good at protecting their lives and who live naturally. It is said they walk on land without encountering vicious rhinos and tigers, and they can not be harmed by weapons during the war. The rhinoceros does not appear to back them into a corner, the tiger is nowhere to claw at them, and the weapons have no space to attack with their blades. Why is this so? Because these people follow nature, appreciate life, and accept death when their time has come.
This content reminds me the story of Lao Tzu and His Friend (an article I posted on my blog before-http://loveneverending.com/lao-tzu-and-his-friend/). Here, his friend commented on him, saying “When it was suitable to come into the world, the Master came at the right time. When it was suitable to depart the world, the Master left naturally. If one can calmly wait for the right moment and go with the natural flow, sadness and joy cannot enter the heart. The ancients would call that being released by the Emperor from hanging upside down.” No wonder the legend says that Lao Tzu lived up to one hundred and sixty years old.
The Sage has no decided opinions and feelings,
But regards the people’s opinions and feelings as his own.
The good ones I declare good;
The bad ones I also declare good.
That is the goodness of Virtue.
The honest ones I believe;
The liars I also believe;
That is the faith of Virtue.
The Sage dwells in the world peacefully, harmoniously.
The people of the world are brought into a community of heart,
And the Sage regards them all as his own children.
(Translation by Lin Yutang )
The image ifs from Gurmeet.Net
What should rulers do? Lao Tzu gives a clear idea here. It seems simple, but it is not easy to carry out.
Rulers are leaders with power, and power corrupts them. The more power they possess, the more corrupt they become. The power of the ancient emperors is beyond our imagination. They have the power to kill, extort, and do whatever they want. Finding noncorrupted rulers are rare. As a result, Lao Tzu wrote this article on the vigilance of the power of rulers. Whoever gains the support of the people will prosper, and whoever loses their support will perish.
As an Asian, I know that we have a habit of giving cash as a wedding or birthday gift. I am no exception. I prefer to give some money because I do not have time to buy a gift from a shop. I also know that whatever presents I pick may not necessarily be what they like.
I have done the cash as a gift thing for many years now. So for my son-in-law’s birthday, I did the same, of course. Rushing out of freeway, I went in the bank a couple of minutes before closing time. I told the cashier that I needed two brand new one hundred bills as a gift.
I saw him take out two hundred dollar bills and lay them on the table. Suddenly, I heard the noise from the counting machine, and he took out a stack of bills. It was a lot, maybe over hundred of them. I was surprised and worried that he mistakenly thought I withdrew a lot. Softly, I reminded him that all I needed were two, but he just smiled at me and examined this stack of hundred dollar bills. He looked at each, and after a moment I could tell that he was picking the best and newest ones. Finally, he pulled two bills, looking satisfied.
Standing there, I was amazed by his action. It was just two bills, but he went the extra mile to find me the best ones from the stack. What a warm feeling he gave me. He may never know this, but his attitude has inspired me to do the same for the others. That is, to treat others from the heart and always go an extra mile to help them.
The student of knowledge (aims at) learning day by day;
The student of Tao (aims at) losing day by day.
By continual losing
One reaches doing nothing (laissez-faire).
He who conquers the world often does so by doing nothing.
When one is compelled to do something,
The world is already beyond his conquering.
(Translation by Lin Yutang)
By learning day by day, your knowledge will increase day by day.
On the other hand, those who seek and practice the Tao will reduce greed and delusion of the heart day by day until there is none and they will reach the state of doing-nothing.
Having arrived at this point of non-action, there is nothing which he does not do.
Letting things take their course is the way to rule the world. That is to do nothing. If the rulers try to tamper with it and they interfere with nature, they are not fit to conquer the world.