On Society and Government

“I have heard that the heads of states or noble families do not worry over poverty but instead over equal distribution of wealth; they do not fret over underpopulation, but whether the people are insecure. Now, if there is equality in distribution there will be no poverty; if there is harmony in society there will be no underpopulation, and if there is security, there will be no subversion” (Analects 16.10 Muller; http://www.acmuller.net/con-dao/analects.html#div-17)

My thoughts:

It is my opinion that the responsibility of government is derived from the rudiments of the concept of society. It is further my thought that the concept of society is derived from the most basic of all human instincts.

Human beings seem to have an innate moral sense founded upon a natural aversion to suffering. Subsequently from an early age most everyone cannot bear the sound of one suffering, even before the suffering being can be identified. Hence, by nature we extend our natural aversion to discomfort of any degree to others somewhat indiscriminately, thus spontaneously feeling for the suffering of even a remote sentient being.

From these natural and instinctive human qualities are derived the primary objective of a society and the practical function of government.

Based upon our natural aversion to suffering which serves as the foundation for our innate moral sense, I conclude that the primary objective of a society is to shield every single person from undue suffering. In fact, the responsibility of any collective is to provide for the common good . It then follows that the practical function of government would be to administer a system to meet that end.

Although written by men who were inconsistent in the execution of their own documented principles, even the US Constitution obliges the Congress to provide for the common defense and the general welfare (The Preamble and Article 1 Section 8). The reality then of poverty in our land of plenty reveals that as a society we not only fail a natural collective obligation, but we even fail to execute the primary principles of our own constitution.

For the primary objective of a society and the practical function of government is to alleviate undue suffering by providing for the common good and for the general welfare. In circumstances when such is not the case, then the society should repent and the government should be revised accordingly.

Only then will the natural way of government be established, balance be restored, and harmony ultimately ensue.

Such as they are these are my thoughts as to the objective of a society and the function of government.

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A Continuous Quest In An Ever Changing Universe

The universe is in constant flux and transformation. A moment by moment displacement and reformation.

The universe is everything which is known and experienced, and much more. Even the most knowledgeable among humanity regarding the happenings of our ever expanding universe are merely as a child on the beach looking across the ocean as far as one’s vision might allow. If we only knew what we don’t know, perhaps our ignorance would overwhelm our confidence.

Our concept of reality is limited in scope and to certain specifics. What we know amounts to perceptions as defined by our instincts and our experiences. Our instincts are innate, our experiences are an expanded context of the function of those instincts within the framework of the natural principles of the universe.

Our lives are a moment by moment quest for comfort. An instinctive effort from birth to death. The specifics as to how we achieve that ever elusive goal are limited to the framework of certain seemingly consistent principles within the context of the physical universe.

Our natural instinctive aversion to discomfort is complemented by a secondary instinctive sensitivity for the suffering of others. In fact, we become distressed and therefore internally uncomfortable at the mere sound of the suffering of any other sentient being.

Our instinctive aversion to suffering then seems to not only serve as a means of self preservation, but likewise as a basis for social interaction. Such seems to be the most fundamental principle of our very being as sentient beings within the the context of the constant flux and transformation of our niche of the known universe.

On Innate Comprehension and Universal Aversion To Suffering

Lu Jiuyan taught that the mind is the universe, and the universe is the mind. Mencius taught that all things are complete in oneself.

There is a universal principle that suffering is not good.

It seems universally comprehended that the only suffering which is not bad is that which is inflicted for the purpose of preventing another and less desirable degree of suffering. Surgery for the purpose of preventing a painful or deadly disease comes to mind.

Our aversion to suffering is innate and instinctive. We are born with a natural aversion to discomfort, and we maintain that posture until we pass away. The innate and instinctive comprehension that suffering is bad allows for a spontaneous guide for self preservation and social conduct.

The innate comprehension of the universal aversion to suffering is indicative of Lu Jiuyan’s theory that the mind is the universe, and likewise the thoughts of Mencius that all things are complete in oneself.

Or so it seems to me.

The Essence of Ethics

The notion that we humans are self equipped with instinctive qualities for ethical thinking is evidenced by our natural aversion to suffering for self and others. It seems to me that we are born with the former and that we develop the latter quite early in life through the most basic of natural experiences. Mencius’ illustration of our aversion to the suffering of a dog is a prime example of our natural sensitivity for the suffering of others. Our moment by moment quest for comfort seems to be a kinetic illustration of our natural discomfort in general.

It seems to me that such basic human qualities are the basis for ethical thinking, which in turn should translate to subsequent ethical behavior.

On The Horizontal Nature of Humility

“Humility in a person of high position sheds luster on that position. Humility in a person of lower position no person can exceed.
Thus humility is the ultimate goal of the noble person, regardless of one’s class status or social position in any given context.”

(My paraphrase of the T’uan commentary on the 15th hexagram of Ch’ien of The Book of Changes; aka “The I Ching”)

Humility and deference are often thought of as a “downwards up” perspective. In other words, those who are traditionally regarded as “subordinates” are conditioned to defer to their “superiors” with an attitude of humility and respect.

Such a perspective is quite common in the Western world, and is conditioned into the fiber of our very thinking from an early age onward. Western folk are conditioned to be humble and to defer to all forms of authority figures, commencing from childhood with reference to parents, and continuing throughout our adults lives with reference to any number of a variety of such symbols of superiority. Yet symbols of superiority are all that a person of elevated social position actually represent, for in truth no individual of any setting is superior to any other, regardless of the context.

The natural equitable status of all people being the reality of an unconditioned perspective, then humility should be universal, and respect should be reciprocal in all situations and settings.

In this regard, it has become my observation based upon decades of experience in “the working world” that harmony in such a setting is best accomplished when people of all levels of management and manufacturing share common respect one for another. If the burden of respect for one another is reciprocal, then management and manufacturers share common concerns and seek the common good. This is but one example of an area where universal humility can lead to ultimate harmony, yet such is a most practical place for the application of the process.

Regardless then of one’s “position” or one’s “status”, humility is the ultimate goal of any such person who seeks to be noble and decent.

On Ruism and Humanism

Confucianist Ruism and Secular Humanism share common ground in that each ideology maintains that the human being is naturally equipped with the capacity to be kind, courteous, caring and compassionate. In essence, the theory is that goodness is naturally developed from within rather than being driven into the person from without.

The Confucian Ruist then does not depend upon being motivated or moved by an exterior being, but rather trusts the natural inner feelings of compassion and concern for others as an effectual guide for establishing a personal code of ethics (Note: The very term “Ru” means softness).

I believe this quality is very well termed by the Asian Studies scholar Philip Ivanhoe when he describes Confucian ethics as “virtue ethics”. Indeed, Confucian Ruism is the theory that all people have within the natural virtues necessary to be humane and to live in peace and harmony.

And so the daily walk of the Confucian Ruist and the Secular Humanist is that of seeking to cultivate and develop our natural virtues from within as we socially engage and casually interact with others without.

For such is the good and natural way of the person who trusts our natural sensitivity and softness as a reliable and reasonable social guide.

The “Me Within Me”

The Confucian thinker Mencius said “All humanity has the mind which cannot bear to see the suffering of others”
(Mencius 2A.6)

My thoughts:

Introspection is the key,
To realize the “Me Within Me”
A common mind we all share,
Upright, sincere, and based on care.

This mind I often throw away,
And act contrary to the Way.
This mind distressed at the pain of another,
I cherish more than any other.

On The Root of Humaneness and The Rudiments of Harmony

The Confucian thinker Mencius maintained that “all things are complete in oneself”. Confucius himself said that “Humanity is born with uprightness”.

It seems to me that within each person is the root of humaneness and the rudiments of a peaceful and harmonious way. The cultivation of such qualities is a daily endeavor accompanied by a host of distractions and obstructions.

I sincerely maintain that the cultivation of our nobler qualities, which should be our primary effort according to Mencius, is the most natural of all experiences and the most necessary of personal endeavors.

A daily work in progress.

The Practical And Adaptive Nature of Confucian Humanism

Among the qualities of Confucianism which appeal to me are the personal and practical nature of its teachings, and the ease with which such may be adapted to any circumstance or situation.

Confucianism is the self awareness of our natural qualities; and the subsequent application of such in any and all settings. In fact, when one comprehends the reality that the Confucian way is merely adaptation to and abiding in accord with the nature of all reality, then we can understand that the Way is not only always with us; but that in fact the Way is within us.

As Confucius said, “Humanity is born with uprightness” (Analects 6.17). And as Mencius said “All things are complete in oneself” (Mencius 7A.4). Again, Mencius said that “All humanity has the mind which cannot bear to see the suffering of others” (Mencius 2A.6).

The fact that such qualities are natural to our very being, and the fact that “all things are complete in oneself” then it follows that the realization of such is based upon a deriving such from within, rather than having these qualities driven in from without. Hence; the 12th Century Confucian Lu Hsiang-Shan said “Principle is endowed in me by Nature, not drilled into me from outside”. Thus, the Confucian way is to “build up the nobler part of our nature” (Mencius 6A.15) by way of honest introspection and sincere application of such in any and all settings in our lives.

And so it is that the Confucian way is merely self awareness of our natural humane qualities; and sincere application of such in our everyday lives.

The Confucian way then is applicable in any situation, and is adaptable to any setting.

Hence, when one looks within, and realizes our natural sensitivity for the feelings of all beings, and responds accordingly, then we are better people for the experience.

Confucianism is about human relations, regardless of the setting.

Confucianism is about self cultivation, and subsequent social engagement based upon a natural kindness and courtesy which is natural to our being.

The Confucian way is to be the best family member, citizen, employee, supervisor, neighbor, and friend; not due to rules and regulations, but rather based upon the realization that such is natural to our very being.

It is my personal view then that self cultivation is the most natural of all experiences, and the most noble of all endeavors.

And such is the Confucian way.

“If you can renovate yourself one day, then you can do so every day, and keep doing so day after day” (King T’ang of the Shang Dynasty)

On The Mind Which Cannot Bear The Suffering of Others (Mencius 2A.6)

From the moment of my birth I have been sensitive to discomfort of any degree, and have from that very moment asserted my will to seek comfort as my preferred state of being.

From an early age I was sensitive to the suffering of other sentient beings. The cry of a stray dog in pain or suffering would have been such a discomfort to my inner being, that my own comfort would have depended upon the comfort of that dog.

I aspire to never lose my original mind which has always had such an aversion to discomfort that my own comfort depends upon the comfort of others.

I cannot help but believe that everyone is born with this same natural aversion to discomfort of any degree for self and others, yet I can only speak for myself in so affirming that such was the case for me.

In the words of the Confucian scholar Mencius (371-289BCE):

“All people have the mind which cannot bear to see the suffering of others”

“The good person is the one who does not lose his originally good child’s heart”