Notes from the field: pounding the pathways of the Four Beasts

pounding the pathways

Taipei’s still pretty quiet even though the Lunar New Year holiday finishes tomorrow. I suspect that a lot of people will take Thursday and Friday off and return to work next Monday.

I’ve been spending most of my break pounding the pathways of the Four Beasts Scenic Area while working my way through the wonderful back catalog of In Our Time podcasts hosted by the inimitable Melvin Bragg. I know I’m not the first person to remark on this, but the AirPods that came with my new iPhone have given me a greater appreciation of the power of the spoken word and led me to read less and listen more.

pounding the pathways

Since I haven’t been using the AirPods very long, this could of course be just a novelty that will eventually wear off. But given the ease of use and the quality of the content that’s available, I doubt it. The human voice can bring far more color and life to words than simple text on a screen or a page.

pounding the pathways

When it comes to content production, however, I think that at least for now I’ll stick to the written word. Over the holiday, I’ve been reviewing and updating my posts about Book 4 of the Analects of Confucius and writing a series of new articles about Book 5 that I’ll publish next week.

Book 5 is very different beast than the first four books of the Analects because it provides a “warts and all” picture of the sage praising his followers for their virtues and criticizing them for shortcomings. Confucius is unable to hide his frustration that for all his great efforts to educate his followers, none of them with the possible exception of Yan Hui have made much progress in achieving a state of goodness. “I give up!” he declares in the penultimate chapter of the book. “I have yet to meet a person capable of seeing their own faults and taking themselves to task in the court of their own heart.”

There have been times that I’ve experienced exactly the same feeling as I pound the myriad pathways of the Analects.

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