Young at heart

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葉公問孔子於子路,子路不對。子曰:「女奚不曰,其為人也,發憤忘食,樂以忘憂,不知老之將至云爾。」
The Duke of She asked Zilu about Confucius. Zilu did not reply. Confucius said: “Why did you not say, ‘He is the kind of man who gets so lost in his passions that he forgets to eat and so caught up in his happiness that he forgets his worries while refusing to accept that he is growing old’?”

The picture that Confucius paints of himself here is very different to the traditional stereotype of him that has been passed down from generation to generation. Instead of being a wise and solemn old sage, he is a man who is so caught up in his passions that he remains young at heart even as he approaches the frailties of old age. The earnest disciples and scholars who beatified him after his death have a lot to answer for!

The Duke of She was a feudal lord in the state of Chu whose fiefdom is located in what is now Henan province. His full name was Shen Zhuliang (沈諸梁). Depending on which commentators you choose to believe, he was either an ambitious figure who wanted to hire Confucius to help him fulfill his lust for greater power or a wise and thoughtful individual who had great admiration for the sage.

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