Confucius never talked of strange phenomena, feats of strength, disorder, or spirits. (1)
We all have limited time. How to remain focused on what’s important when there are so many distractions out there? It’s a lot more fun to read about all the weird stuff that’s happening in the world than dealing with the tiresome issues we are faced with every day.
Confucius certainly didn’t allow any extraneous topics to divert him from what he saw as his mission to restore the glories of the early years of Zhou civilization to his turbulent age. He had no time for indulge in idle chatter about superhuman feats or supernatural phenomena. He kept his feet firmly planted on the ground of the world he lived in and dedicated his time, intellect, and energy to figuring out how to help humanity to get out of the mess it was in.
Even if your goals aren’t quite as grand as those of Confucius, it’s worth taking some time to measure how much time you actually devote towards achieving them as compared to how much you think you spend. If you find that you are easily distracted from the work that you need to put in, you might want to ask yourself whether it’s time to double down on your efforts or to take a different path.
This article features a translation of Chapter 20 of Book 7 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 7 here.
(1) This is one of those chapters in the Analects that has led to a great deal of debate among commentators about whether Confucius had any religious or spiritual beliefs. Such discussions miss the main point of the passage: namely, that his main concern was to fulfill what he believed to be his duty of restoring peace and harmony to the world. This was a big enough task in itself without him having to think about other matters.
I took this image at the Temple of Confucius in Changhua, Taiwan.