Dire straits

In Chen, the food supplies were exhausted. His disciples became so weak that they could not rise to their feet. Zilu came to him and said indignantly: “How is it possible for a leader to be brought to such dire straits?” Confucius said: “A leader stays resolute in even the direst of straits but only a petty person loses his cool about it.”

I can’t say I blame Zilu for getting upset with Confucius for landing him and his fellow disciples stuck in the middle of nowhere sick, tired, and hungry. Still, Confucius gives back as good as he gets with his rejoinder, pointedly reminding Zilu and his companions that they should maintain their dignity even in the face of possible death. Talk about a captain going down with his sinking ship.

Chen was a very minor state during the Spring and Autumn Period located in the eastern part of modern-day Henan province. Confucius must have been in desperate need of a job to go there in the first place.

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