Confucius of the Analects
a selection from the texts, translated with a commentary
The Psychology of Goodness
Studies of Confucius are characterized by the same stupefying banality one finds in lives of Jesus. And the reason is the same. In the Analects as in the Gospels, we have a series of textual layers, of which the oldest and most authentic is not easily disengaged from the bland and conventional later accretions. Thus it is that accounts of Confucius, synthesizing all the of the Analects, and usually drawing on medieval Chinese traditions about the sage, effectively bowdlerize the records ("reconcile the accounts") of a profound and original thinker, to bring it all into line with goody-goody pious feeling.
Here I shall go straight to the heart of the matter, to the original doctrine of Confucius, separating it from the later accretions. Arthur Waley, in what remains the best complete translation of Confucius into English, correctly maintains that the oldest part of the Analects, the "Inner Chapters," consists of books three through nine. Within these books, one may isolate the essential material on the basis of internal consistency, using content, grammar and even juxtaposition as guides. Once this is done, once can even draw on later books of the Analects where they contain material that casts light on the earliest layers.
In what follows, all the citations are sayings by Confucius himself. Only when there is more than one speaker or the authorship is otherwise unclear, do I introduced the utterance with the formula "the master said."
Much has been said about the Confucian ideal of goodness (ren仁) some of it interesting, all of it superficial to the present purpose.
Confucius deepened the meaning of goodness far beyond anything that can be gathered from the word's visual etymology (a man人 standing by the number two 二﹐signifying the relation of man to his fellows). The archaic meaning of goodness is equally unhelpful: goodness as the virtue of one who possesses the traits esteemed by the tribe as opposed to those of outsiders.
Confucius' idea of goodness adds to these ideas psychological insights, which he lacked the abstract vocabulary to express directly. However, he made many remarks that define its outline clearly, and once we see what this is we can arrive at its center. Indeed, many of his sayings about goodness must remain incomprehensible until we fully grasp his special meanings for the word.
If we understand the radically new nature of Confucius' conception of goodness, we can for the first time appreciate the difficulty his disciples had in fathoming it. The traditional view is that the disciples were earnest but somewhat slow learners: a gratifying idea for the reader, who then assumes that he is far better at grasping it --- though he may have done no better than the disciples, who took goodness at face value as a moralizing ideal.
Confucius was well aware that his doctrine of goodness would make no sense to people for whom it was entirely new,
The master said, Ning Woo Zih, an officer of the state of Wey from the last century, put himself at considerable risk by continuing to serve his prince after that prince had been deposed. Had Ning lived in a country that possessed the Way, he'd have been considered wise. In a country that lacked the Way, he'd have been regarded as stupid. Ning Woo's wisdom is an thing attainable thing, but to achieve his stupidity --- that would be a real accomplishment. (5: 20)
The following plaint, from Confucius' favorite disciple Hwey, attests to Confucius' patient, graduated explanations of goodness, and his attempts to make his ideas clear by drawing parallels from literature, the arts and ritual. It also shows the strenuous effort of his followers to fathom what he meant.
With a deep sigh Hwey complained,
When I look upward and try to discern what goodness really is, it's too lofty to make out. When I try to penetrate it, goodness proves to be too hard. When I seem to see it right in front of me, suddenly it's behind me.
The master leads me on, step by step, his idea seems so clear and easy one can't help but want to follow. He broadens my understanding with culture, uses the implications of ritual to perfect me in self-mastery. Even if I wanted to stop, I coundn't!
Then, when I've exhausted my abilities in the attempt, some essential part of goodness still remains before me in the distance, exalted and unattained. However much I want to pursue it, it has become clear there is no possible means of getting there. (9: 11)
Feeling that something of Confucius' teachings on goodness eluded them, the disciples speculated whether he was deliberately withholding it from them. Confucius attempted to reassure them with candor, warmth and empathy that he was not hiding anything,
The master said, My dear sirs, my small and choice group, do you think I am being mysterious? I assure, I hide nothing from you. I do nothing without a few of you present. I am your friend. (7: 23)
This inscrutability of Confucius' arose in part from his ambiguous endorsement of tradition. On the one hand, he saw himself as a hard-working student and conserver of the old ways. These were the perfect paradigms which succeeding ages had imitated with diminishing success.
On the other hand, Confucius was investing tradition with new and abstract meanings, though he had no conscious awareness that this was what he was doing. He loved tradition, and like all lovers, saw virtues in the beloved that were sometimes barely implicit.
As a result, Confucius' endorsement of ancient Chinese culture was a bit paradoxical. That culture was (to his mind) the standard for all who came after, yet it was, by itself, inadequate, for Confucius had to expand its meaning. Thus the puzzlement of his disciples --- his teaching was not, in fact, what it appeared to be.
Confucius presented goodness as the underlying force which gives effectiveness to behavior. Without it, even the most correct ritual action fails to achieve its aim.
A man who lacks goodness, what would he do with ritual? what business has he with music? (3: 3)
Confucius, though he considered ritual to be supremely meaningful, did not consider it so in itself. He did not stop at the magical and social view of ritual held by his contemporaries, but added a psychological one. This should not be confused with the modern notion that religion is only of psychological value, inwardly comforting but outwardly ineffectual --- though the superficial similarity of Confucius' position to the modern one gives his statements on this head a surprisingly contemporary air. For Confucius, the psychic state of the individual is itself part of ritual. We take for granted this psychological perspective, and this is a real handicap in appreciating what an innovation it was in Confucius' time.
The following quote helps clarify Confucius' view of ritual. He doesn't call into question the existence of the spirit world, but the relevance of that world for one who has not achieved the inner condition of goodness.
Confucius cited the proverb
Sacrifice to the ancestors and to the gods as reverently as though they were visibly present.
and he added that if one does not perform a religious duty with conscious, deliberate intention, he might as well not even bother. (3: 12)
Another factor in Confucius' inscrutability is so obvious as to have eluded notice these last few millennia. He didn't talk much.
The master rarely spoke of money, fate or goodness. (9: 1)
Now a great number of Confucius' sayings contain references to money and fate, and goodness is a very frequent theme. We can resolve the contradiction if we understand that nearly all of Confucius' rare utterances on these interesting matters were particularly prized and so preserved in the Analects. The fact that almost every analect begins with the phrase "the master said," does not mean that Confucius was an avid talker! This is consistent with his repeated deprecation of eloquence and glibness, and his praise of the reticence of the ancients.
The important point here is that Confucius was interested in right action, and felt that extended discussions, even of goodness, were a positive distraction from attaining it. He was particularly reluctant to discuss religious matters.
Zih Loo said, You can get the master to talk about the proper way to acquire culture and employ it, but it isn't possible to get him to discuss natural science or metaphysics. (5: 12)
Confucius' taciturnity had a deeper motivation as well. Confucian goodness was not an intellectual attainment that could be furthered by wordy analysis. Rather, it required a harmonizing of feelings and drives to make them serve deliberate virtuous purposes. This concept of goodness offers the only useful way of understanding the following,
The master said, Is goodness really so far off? I have only to really want it and I find it has entirely arrived. (7: 29)
For Confucius, it is not the kingdom of heaven that is within you, but the wants and needs that, once fully integrated, give power to one's striving to improve oneself and the world. The delphic nature of the last quote should help to show how difficult it is to talk about the unconscious and its role in the personality before any words existed to describe them. One was forced to speak in paradoxes and seeming mysteries. Setting forth just what Confucius understood of psychology and what he meant by this inner goodness, is the object of the following section.
The Mirror of Humanity
It debatable whether Confucius believed, as did the thinkers of the Enlightenment, in human equality. But he was assuredly persuaded of human similarity. Cicero formulated this tenet dear to the Stoics thus,
No man has so much in common with himself as he does with mankind at large.
Like the Stoics, Confucius made a very practical employment of this insight, using his observation of others to help him analyze and improve himself.
Whenever I am with even two companions I can be sure of finding a teacher among them. I focus on a person's good qualities and try to emulate them; on his bad ones, and attempt to correct them in myself. (7: 21)
When one meets a worthy person, one should reflect on how to match them in their merits. When one meets an unworthy person, one should scrutinize himself for similar faults. (4: 17)
The greatest obstacle to this kind of observation is self-involvement,
There were four things the master insisted on: Don't be in love with your own opinions! Don't be overly insistent! Don't be implacable! Don't be self-obsessed! (9: 4)
The following quotes show how this outward introspection, the seeing of oneself in others, formed the basis of Confucius' overall practice; this was the utmost attainment.
Zih Gong said, I have no desire to do to someone else what I don't want someone else to do to me.
The master said, Gong, I don't think you've reached that point quite yet. (5: 11)
Zih Gong asked, If a man did much to benefit the people, if he aided the multitudes, what would you say of him? Could such a one be called good?
The master said, Good? One who did all that would deserve to be called a divine sage! Such were Yao and Shun, the morally perfect demigods who ruled China thousands of years ago. They would have worried themselves sick pondering how to achieve such noble ends.
Goodness is the concern of we lesser, later men. A mere man, a good one, because he himself wants to attain position, helps others to do so; because he himself wants to attain and acquire, he helps others to get what they want. One who can see himself in his fellow man --- you could fairly say that someone like that has mastered the science of goodness. (6: 28)
One must here particularly resist the temptation to equate Confucian altruism with the Christian "do unto others," for this proceeding, by wholly abstracting the concepts from their contexts, reduces both Confucius' and Jesus' statements to empty axioms, shallow platitudes. Jesus' injunction was based on the assumption that the day of judgement was imminent and there was an urgent need to balance one's moral accounts. Confucius, in sharpest contrast, invites one to a calm introspection, to the search for an inner reconciliation, not a preparation for Armageddon. The projection of Christian expectations onto Confucian doctrine has been the West's single greatest obstacle to fully understanding what he meant.
In the above quote about ancient emperors, Confucius, after carefully distinguishing his veneration of antiquity from a literal and unrealistic imitation of the ancients, defines the task of humans in a way I may paraphrase thus:
A man set on achieving goodness will see that the basic wants and needs of others are the same as his own. This is "seeing oneself in one's fellows." It is a humbling recognition of our common neediness, and strips our own selfish drives of their seeming uniqueness and priority. This is the method to tame them, the "science of goodness." It transforms altruism into a common project, not something one does for another who is wholly other. (Also, it rules out an egoistic preoccupation with "self-help.") In this way one's own desires become advocates of generous action.
The master said,
I haven't yet seen anyone who really loved goodness or really hated all that is inconsistent with goodness. The lover of goodness would want nothing else. One who hated all that was inimical to goodness would have at least learned to act as though he were wholly good. He would allow no evil impulse to come within arm's length.
Does anyone exist who has succeeded in seeking goodness with with all his strength for even a single day? I haven't yet seen anyone who wasn't strong enough. Perhaps such a person has existed, but I've never seen one. (4:6)
An important clue offered by the above quote is the term "strength." The Chinese word itself is a common and neutral one, but Confucius' use of it in this context, after his characterization of goodness as a thing to be attained with the help of love and hate, by an emotional rather than an intellectual exertion, suggests he is talking about psychological energy. The terms "love" and "hate" are particularly significant, because Confucius uses them only in reference to the seeking of goodness. In all other contexts he advocates detached calm, and indeed manifests it by his always measured and diplomatic manner of speaking.
We would probably not overstate the case if we read "love" and "hate" here as a muted reference to the unconscious sexual and aggressive drives which, sublimated, provide the energy for our higher ego functions, our virtues and our achievements. Of course Confucius could not have imagined the Freudian depth of what he was suggesting --- that perspective is reserved for us. Whether we are justified in using it here cannot be established by a single quote: the following corroborating statements must also be taken into account. In these Confucius reveals more clearly that he does not ask that selfish drives be uprooted, but rather sublimated, modified to social ends. This reveals the watchworks of his view of goodness.
The master said, A gentleman is never competitive. You may object, surely he's competitive, in noble games like archery! But look more closely. First comes the formal exchange of greetings, then he goes up to the archery field with many an expression of deference, "After you, sir!" "No, after you." When the contest is concluded, the participants drink wine in fellowship. A gentleman's competition is --- gentle. (3: 7)
When man's nature prevails over his culture, he's a savage. If culture wholly subdues nature, the result is a pedant. But when nature and culture are fused with consummate elegance, then we have a gentleman. (6: 16)
Confucius fully appreciated the power of the unconscious drives he wished his followers to tame,
I have never yet seen a man who was as strongly drawn to virtue as he is to a pretty woman. (9: 18)
Confucius was aware, sometimes quite unhappily, of how difficult self-mastery was.
I give up. I have never yet met a man who could see his own faults and had real difficulties in forgiving them. (5: 26)
The master said, I haven't yet seen anyone who was really firm in the Way.
Someone asked, What about the disciple Shen Chung?
The master said, Cheng? He's the servant of his desires. How could we call him firm? (5: 10)
In fact Confucius called self-mastery, quite simply, "the difficult."
Fan Chih asked about wisdom.
The master said, To work to protect the people's rights, to keep the ancestors and spirits at a safe distance by showing them ritual reverence, you could fairly call that wisdom.
Fan Chih asked about goodness.
The master said, A good man doesn't think about how to benefit himself until after he's accomplished the difficult. You could fairly call that way of acting "goodness." (6: 20)
The quote that immediately follows the above in the Analects, clearly so placed to clarify its antecedent, compares goodness, "the difficult," to a mountain.
The master said, A wise man enjoys the sight of water: moving, yielding, right at one's feet. A good man enjoys the sight of mountains: motionless, uncompromising, with summits hard to reach. A wise man will be active; a good man, tranquil. A wise man is happy; a good man, long-lived. (6: 21)
This description of goodness calls to mind the one in Hwey's plaint quoted at the beginning of this essay,
Then, when I've exhausted my abilities in the attempt, some essential part of goodness still remains before me in the distance, exalted and unattained. (9: 11)
Confucius had few illusions about human nature, though his basic optimism always struggled with the facts.
That a man can act impulsively yet deviously, that he can be unsophisticated yet insincere, guileless yet untrustworthy --- I haven't yet succeeded in understanding how this can be. (8: 16)
Still, once brought under control and set to work, selfish drives are the very soul of goodness.
Only one who has achieved goodness really knows how to love, or to hate, another. (4: 3)
This invites comparison with the famous scene at the end of the first book of Rumi's Mathnawi, where Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet vanquishes an infidel knight. When Ali had raised his sword to slay him, the infidel spat in his face, whereupon Ali dropped his weapon. Asked by his astounded enemy why he had been shown mercy, Ali explained that he fought only for the glory of God, never to indulge personal resentment.
Anger is king over kings, and to me it is a slave; even anger have I bound under the bridle.
The sword of my forbearance hath smitten the neck of my anger; the anger of God hath come over me like mercy.
The comparison of Confucius' concept of good love and good hate with that in Rumi's code of mystical chivalry is, in its own way, as wide of the mark as an analogy with the Christian injunction to love one's neighbor. Still, it may serve to set in higher relief the unique emphasis of Confucius' pronouncement, which censures all raw and uncontrolled emotions, be they negative or positive. Confucius doesn't combat anger like Rumi or Jesus, who reject it on the grounds that it lacks proper metaphysical insight (Rumi's position) or because it is sinful (Jesus' point of view). Confucius has no admiration of any emotional excess, even love, which is uncontrolled and unskillful.
Though Confucius distances himself from raw love as much as he does from raw hate, and he is especially cautious about anger. This is very different from the Islamic and Christian viewpoints, which give anger a structural role, in (respectively) Jihad and the Day of Wrath. Confucian psychology prizes serenity in a way one would be hard pressed to parallel in Western religion (though Stoicism comes close.)
If a man's will be set entirely on achieving goodness, he never hates. (4: 4)
Confucius of course has a precedent from antiquity for his ambivalence towards aggression. (The following analect is actually quite pithy, only nineteen words long, in Chinese. The present translator's need to fill in the historical details for the reader makes of it a more discursive and seemingly less forceful expression of his views.)
The demigod Emperor Shun, who reigned in the twenty-third century BC, was the ideal embodiment of self-effacing filial piety. He was like Cinderella in his patient good cheer and unfailing courtesy towards his murderous stepmother. Because of Shun's virtue, the Emperor Yao appointed him his successor in place of the nine worthless imperial sons.
In the course of Shun's long peaceful reign he invented a symphonic music which was perfect in its beauty and inspired all who heard it with benevolent thoughts.
Emperor Woo overthrew the wicked last Shang emperor in the eleventh century BC. He founded the Jo dynasty under which we live today.
Emperor Woo also originated a style of music, martial in spirit. It was perfect in its beauty, but the thoughts it inspired in its hearers were never purely benevolent. (3: 25)
The condemnation of Woo's music is far stronger than may appear, as etiquette required Confucius to speak reverently of the ruling house.
Parts of a Whole
Confucius' insight that the drives must be sublimated, not eliminated, was part of a holistic view of the personality.
The virtue of a man --- that is, his merit, his character, his moral strength --- this never stands alone. It always has, as it were, neighbors. (4: 25)
Human faults always hint at a larger whole. Observe well where a man's nature carries him into excess or transgression: this is what really reveals his capacities for goodness. (4: 7)
Zih Gong asked, How did Kong the Learned get that title? He was a wicked and disloyal statesman.
The master said, Whatever he did, he was diligent and eager to inform himself, and he wasn't finicky about learning things from persons lower than himself on the social ladder. That's why I would call him leaened. (5: 14)
The master said, To attain virtue, use moderation and try to act normal, that's what would really succeed! How few manage this, how rarely! (6: 27)
This last quote in particular invites comparison with Aristotle's psychology in the Nichomachean Ethics. The Greek prescribed a "golden mean" between extremes of behavior. For example, courage is the mean between fear and overconfidence; generosity, the mean between wastefulness and stinginess. But Aristotle's emphasis is ethical, his point of view, almost positivist. His program for self improvement depends on logical analysis and conscious choice, and counts on habit to make firm one's gains. All quite rational and mechanistic. Confucius' version is given thus,
Courtesy not bounded by etiquette is simply tiresome. Uncustomary caution is nothing but timidity. Courage that exceeds the norm, no better than violence. Honesty unrestrained by tact is rudeness. Traditional usage and cultural norms should be our guide in all such matters. (8: 2)
The Chinese word lee (禮), usually rendered "ritual," is the single term Confucius uses for all these limitations on behavior. I will vary the translation of "ritual" to suit the precise sense demanded in each case. To render it "ritual" without further ado would be no more helpful than leaving it in Chinese.
Confucius' conservatism shows here its greatest strength. By using lee, traditional usage and cultural norms, rather than cold reason as his guide, Confucius ensured that his ethics took full account of the organic and inconsistent realities of life in human society. Aristotle's purely rational undertaking was nearly as impracticable as it was tidy.
The seal of achievement for Confucius' project is a cheerful contentment. This is the final proof that Confucian goodness is to be understood psychologically.
That Hwey is a worthy man indeed! His meals are a single bowl of rice, his drink a ladle of water, his home's in a back alley in the poorer part of town. Few men could endure the stress of such poverty. But Hwey is unfailingly cheerful. A worthy man indeed, our Hwey! (6: 9)
A man who lacks goodness can't cope with privations for long --- he can't even handle luxury indefinitely. This is because a good man finds contentment in goodness itself, while a man who is just intelligent only attempts that inner integration which is goodness so long as he sees he has something to gain by it. (4: 2)
A wise man has no confusion, a good man no worries, and a brave man no fears. (9:29)
In this last quote the placement of goodness in the middle position between intellect and emotion is itself worth pondering. The significance becomes clearer when we observe the interplay between Confucius and his two favorite disciples, to which we now turn.
Loo versus Hwey
The struggle to integrate the elements of the personality takes visible form in the contrast between Confucius and his disciples Zih Loo and Yan Hwey. This a major theme of the Analects, commensurate with with the importance of what it represents.
Loo was like one of Walter Scott's romantic heroes,very concerned with the figure he cut, dashing and gallant, impetuous and brave.
The Way does not prevail. I'm going to get on a raft and float out to sea just to get away from the situation. Who would follow me then? Zih Loo, I suppose.
When this remark was repeated to Zih Loo, he was delighted.
Hearing of Loo's reaction, Confucius said, That Zih Loo is brave --- to a fault. How can I build the Way here if I don't have the material I want? (5: 6)
But Confucius admired Loo's willpower. Asked by the Duke of Loo (no relation) about the various disciples' capacity for government service, he replied,
As for Zih Loo, he's determined. How could he fail to be a good governor? (6: 6)
Loo wanted more than to follow the Way --- he wanted to run it like a race.
When Zih Loo hear a precept from the master, he was fearfully anxious to put it into practice before he heard another, lest in his enthusiasm for the next teaching he forget the previous one (5: 13)
The master said, As for Loo, he could stand next to people dressed in rich robes trimmed with fox and badger fur, himself wearing worn out clothing woven from common hemp, without being in the least embarrassed. One could say of him, as the poem has it
. . . free from jealousy and greed,
his conduct ever excellent.
Zih Lo went around reciting this endlessly.
The master said, Loo, that quotation isn't what will make your conduct "ever excellent." (9: 27)
Loo's zeal for Confucius' teaching led him at times into too strict an application of it.
The master paid a call on Nan Zih, the wicked concubine of Duke Ling of Wey. Zih Loo was displeased.
The master called the gods to witness, saying, If I have done anything amiss, may heaven hate me for it! (6: 26)
The master said, Loo, I'll teach you what wisdom really consists of: acting on what you know and freely admitting what you don't know. That's wisdom (2: 17)
When Confucius was dying, Lu's eagerness to make a grandiose matter of it moved Confucius to amusement, and finally to mild annoyance.
When the master was gravely ill, Zih Loo asked if the disciples might chant prayers for the rest of his soul.
Confucius said, Are you sure that's right?
Zih Loo replied, Oh yes! It says in the Book of Funeral Odes
Let's pray for you to all the gods,
those on high and those below,
reverently ask their mercy
and forgiveness for your soul.
The master said, If the way I've lived these seventy years hasn't won mercy and forgiveness, what can prayers do? (7: 34)
When the master was in his final illness, Zih Loo tried to get the disciples to attend him in formal fashion, like retainers posted at the bedside of their dying lord. In an interval when the master felt somewhat better, he said,
Zih Loo's pretentiousness --- nothing ever stops it. I have have no lordly entourage, but he's set on making one up. Who will that fool, heaven? What's more, think of me --- if I were to die surrounded by courtiers, wouldn't I be wishing I might rather pass on holding the hands of my loyal band of friends? There's more: if I don't have a grand state funeral, it's not as though my body were abandoned at the side of a road! (9: 12)
Hwey on the other hand was intellectual in his approach, his disposition quiet and contemplative, in marked contrast to Loo.
The master said, as for Hwey, his mind would be fixed on goodness for three months at a time. The rest would manage it for a day or even a month --- they'd get that far but that was it. (6: 5)
The master said, I spent a whole day talking with Hwey --- or perhaps I should say talking to him. He never questioned anything I said. He seemed stupid. After this interview I carefully observed his personal conduct. He's wise enough to set up as a teacher on his own. He's not stupid, that Hwey! (2.9)
While Loo is the paradigm of courage, Hwey is the exemplar of wisdom. the word I am translating as "wisdom" (jih知) literally means "knowing." Confucius uses this term to mean analytic understanding, full comprehension, intellectual grasp. Despite his appreciation of wisdom, Confucius was far from thinking it the pinnacle of human attainment.
The master said, One who fully comprehends the Way is not the equal of one who loves it; one who loves it is not the equal of one who enjoys it. (6: 18)
Now Confucius was very circumspect in his description of Hwey, who was clearly his favorite disciple. Further, Hwey's early death made Confucius idealize his memory. Still, he was consistent in praising Hwey only for the virtues his nature endowed him with, which were primarily of an intellectual order. One may fairly see a little irony in Confucius' last line in the following.
In conversation with Zih Gong the master asked, who do you think has made more progress in the Way, you or Hwey?
Zih Gong replied, As for me, I am not worthy to so much as look up at Hwey. He hears one precept and he infers ten more. I hear one and can see perhaps two of its implications.
The master said, We don't compare with him, Zih Gong, you and I really don't. (5: 8)
There was obviously much more to Hwey than cold intellection, though we should be on guard against taking at face value all the elegiac praise of him.
Ay, Duke of Gong, asked the master, Who among your disciples has the greatest love for learning the Way?
Confucius said, There was a certain Hwey who loved to learn it. He never took his anger out on anyone, he never made the same mistake twice. But he was unlucky, he's gone now, fate allotted him only a brief life. From the time he died till now I've never even heard of anyone who loved learning as Hwey did. (6: 2)
It is Hwey whose plaint is quoted above, complaining he could not penetrate the nature of goodness, saying the matter was too hard and peculiarly elusive. We can now see that because Hwey's approach was so cerebral, he always looked for goodness outside himself, objectively, whereas the secret was to be sought within, subjectively. Thus Hwey was left feeling that some essential part of goodness remained in the distance, unattained. However much he wanted to pursue it, he realized no exertion on his part could attain it.
The contrast between Hwey and Loo plays out in the following exchanges, which bring both characters alive.
The master said to Hwey,
When you need him, he acts;
when you don't, he keeps away.
Out of our whole group, that verse applies only to you and I, don't you think?
Zih Loo said, If you needed someone to lead three armies, who would you want beside you then?
The master said, Someone who would
. . . attack a tiger or gallop his horse
across a roaring river, ever
prepared to die with no regrets . . .
isn't whom I'd choose, even for a military venture. Rather, someone who studied the business at hand with prudent fear, one who loved to come up with an overall strategy and then carefully carry it out. (7: 10)
In the following, Hwey's modest quiet might be seen as an expression of the sibling rivalry among the disciples --- no less clear, if we know how to read it, than Loo's bluster.
One day when Yan Hwey and Zih Loo were walking with Confucius, the master suggested,
Why don't we, each of us, say what kind of person we're determined to become?
Zih Loo said, I want to be munificent as a king, to have chariots, horses and splendid clothes, to be able to give these to my friends, to dress them in fine furs without a second thought.
Yan Hwey said, I want to be able to do good without boasting of it, to work hard without any show of doing so.
Zih Loo said, I'd like to hear what the master wants.
Confucius said, To be a comfort to the elderly, loyal to my friends, and kindly to the young. (5: 25)
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