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Making it Relevant – Confucius: Colossal Bore or Sexiest Thinker Ever?

July 10, 2009

“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.” – Confucius 

We’ve never seen a picture of him, but Confucius probably had more women hanging off his arms than a billionaire at the Playboy mansion. That’s because in ancient China, contemplating the enduring questions of the universe was one of the surest ways to get lucky when you out for a “night on the province”. Many people complain that the classics just aren’t “sexy enough” for today’s sensibilities. Those priggish prudes just needed to let loose and have fun, some would say. Well, I don’t know about you, but The Analects of Confucius holds the number one spot on my top ten list of “super sexy ancient Chinese philosophical texts.”

It’s not just because he made a long, pointed beard (which I can’t duplicate) the epitome of fashion, but because Confucius was a man who meant business. Confucius loved learning for its own sake, but he knew that most people were looking for practical ways for every day living, not a system of metaphysics or a hierarchy of the universe. Most people just want to make the best of what they have, and Confucius understood that. His philosophy was not an all-encompassing system, but short sayings that you could apply to life right now. You can pick up The Analects, turn to any page, and find something profound faster than a teenage girl can text her friends that omg confucius iz like de best ever LOL.

Consider these sayings:

“The gentleman cherishes virtue; the small man cherishes land. The gentleman cherishes institutions; the small man cherishes favors.”

“Acting solely in pursuit of profit will incur much resentment.”

“A man with clever words and an ingratiating appearance is seldom a man of humanity.”

That last one reminds of a certain first-African-American-President-of-the-United-States, but you probably haven’t heard of him. I could go on, but it would be better for you to just pick up The Analects and start reading yourself. Imagine: a virtuous life in twenty minutes a day, three times a week (or perhaps that was six pack abs). Long scholar’s robes and pointy beards may be sooooo fifth-century Orient, but The Analects of Confucius will always be in style.

This weekly series (by Joshua Eskew, a senior at Marian College studying English and communication, and an intern with the Indiana Humanities Council) will help expose the relevance of studying the classics.

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