Tuesday, January 31, 2012

active life






If an expert does not have some problem to vex him,
he is unhappy!
If a philosopher's teaching is never attacked, he pines away!
If critics have no one on whom to exercise their spite,
they are unhappy.
All such men are prisoners in the world of objects.

He who wants followers, seeks political power.
He who wants reputation holds an office.
The strong man looks for weights to lift.
The brave man looks for an emergency in which he can 
show bravery.
The swordsman wants a battle in which he can swing
his sword.
Men past their prime prefer a dignified retirement, in which 
they may seem profound.
Men experienced in law seek difficult cases to extend
the application of laws.
Liturgists and musicians like festivals in which they parade
their ceremonious talents.
The benevolent, the dutiful, are always looking for chances
to display virtue.
Where would the gardener be if there were no more weeds?
What would become of business without a market of fools?
Where would the masses be if there were no pretext
for getting jammed together and making noise?
What would become of labor if there were no superfluous
objects to be made?

Produce! Get results! Make money! Make friends!
Make changes!
Or you will die of despair!

Those who are caught in the machinery of power take no joy
except in activity and change - the whirring of the machine!
Whenever an occasion for action presents itself, they are compelled
to act; they cannot help themselves.  They are inexorably
moved, like the machine of which they are a part.  Prisoners
in the world of objects, they have no choice but to submit to
the demands of matter!  They are pressed down and crushed
by external forces, fashion, the market, events, public opinion.
Never in a whole lifetime do they recover their right mind!
The active life! What a pity!






~ Chuang Tzu
translation by Thomas Merton
from The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton




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