Ancient sayings

Confucius said: “‘Seeing good and pursuing it as if he was unable to reach it; seeing evil and recoiling from it as if he was scalded by boiling water’ – I have seen such people and I have heard such words said of them. ‘Living in seclusion to pursue his aspirations; doing what is right to attain the Way’ – I have heard such words, but I have never seen such people.”

It’s not clear what point Confucius is trying to make by quoting these two ancient sayings. With the second one, he may be taking a sarcastic crack at Daoist aesthetes who have retired to the hills in search of the path to enlightenment. To him, at least, escaping the everyday world no matter how depraved and corrupt it may be was exact the opposite of “doing what is right to attain the Way.”

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