17 March 2005

Like, That's Just Your Opinion. Man.

The ancients who wished to demonstrate illustrious virtue throughout the kingdom, first ordered well their own states. Wishing to order well their states, they first regulated their families. Wishing to regulate their families, they first cultivated their persons. Wishing to cultivate their persons, they first rectified their hearts. Wishing to rectify their hearts, they first sought to be sincere in their thoughts. Wishing to be sincere in their thoughts, they first extended to the utmost their knowledge. Such extension of knowledge lay in the investigation of things. . . . From the Son of Heaven down to the mass of people, all must consider the cultivation of the person the root of everything besides.

I stumbled upon this passage in the most unexpected of places: a sci-fi novel, hardly the normal venue for a kernel of Confucian philosophy. It succinctly put my feelings and musings on my personal philosophy in a way I've never considered. My great ambitions are rather abstract; I seek to somehow improve the world...somehow. As for how I study and learn I feel like I must investigate everything. I jump around from topic to topic, from class to class, from book to book, and never spend enough time to become a bona fide expert in any specific field. I tend to connect thoughts, ideas, and concepts in ways no expert can (due to the restricted proscenium, i.e. his field of expertise, with which said expert views the world). I'm always seeking to extend my knowledge.

One can never fully extend one's knowledge. Knowledge really means a lack of ignorance. I tend to veer from negative definitions. In this case, I'm showing that knowledge might not be the best measure of intelligence, or rather, the best way to define one attempting 'to be sincere in their thoughts.' Wisdom gleaned through experience coupled with a ceaseless extension of knowledge thus becomes a more true method 'to be sincere in [one's] thoughts.'

Before reading this Confucian kernel, I'd always assumed the garnering of knowledge was the sole goal. I could never make the leap to 'demonstrating illustrious virtue throughout the kingdom' or even the small step of utilizing knowledge to simply be more sincere in my thoughts. Along these lines, the Master is wrong in a way regarding how one can go about achieving better honesty and clarity in their thoughts, a key step in the progression from the 'root of everything besides' to a better world. Knowledge can never be fully extended and as wisdom is gained through experience and mediatation, only then can I go out to better the world. But as I am always gaining experience I need to at least attempt sincere thinking. Whether I am sincere or not is irrelevant. Striving for sincerity by continuously extending my knowledge as I further experience life is how I become more sincere in my thoughts.

As corollary: projecting this reasoning over the course of the Confucian passage above one can deduce that one must strive for all the orderings, cultivations, rectifications, etc. concurrently. When knowledge, wisdom, a sincere mind, a true heart, a cultivated self, systems for positive family-, state-, and world-systems are all sought after, a time will come when more of these steps are actualized.

I've been writing too many papers over the past three days. It's gotten me all philosophical on things... and shit. I'm kind of enjoying it I guess. It's helping with my goal of writing [almost] every day. This bit was relatively short, incomplete, full of wholes and all, but at least I'm thinking about what I'm trying to do with my life. Something I keep putting off and ignoring outright as I finish my undergraduate degrees. The next step is easy enough to ignore, but I'd much rather decide to complacently go with the flow of things before I let it happen.

Watching: The Big Lebowski
Listening To: Matt on cello
Comments: Post a Comment << Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?