Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Your turn #3: The chun-tzu

Herb Lubalin ad for Ebony, (late 1960's)

Hi kids!

Our reading of Confucius was a nice experience. I enjoyed your insightful comments and demurrals. Elizabeth's question "how can one be virtuous if you don't know you are?" was an example. There was an interesting back-and-forth with questions and ripostes. Being a chun-tzu is not easy!

Let me start with Confucius' CHENG-MIN or "rectification of names" (or right-speech in Buddhism).* Confucius' point is subtle. It has to do with human verbalization. We do things with words. Language is a beautiful (human) form. Words can shine. They can also deceive. Words must be let free in order to shine. If my utterances boastfully exceed the sphere of my actions, my words take a form of flatulence. And people notice the smell. Confucius may not have pondered why, but he knew. Even in his worst moment Jesus knew, which is why he shuts up and lets Pilate babble. With Freud we learn that language has an unconscious side. It talks through our mouths! Confucius advises to be vigilant.**  

 Illustrator Ricardo Fumanal, via Juxtapoz.

Elizabeth's question: Does one know one is virtuous? The chun-tzu doesn't need to bring such realization to herself as such: "Wow, I'm virtuous!" Here is why: She has internalized good habits for some time. She's grown slowly by trial and error. After years of thoughtful training, her actions become automatic (Confucius says: "The cautious seldom err"). What happens now? Absolutely nothing. Life goes on. She doesn't notice anything at all, but people do. REN is a state of unafectedness that bathes her with contentment. What the Stoics referred to as ataraxia.

Objection to Confucius: Can a criminal be content?

Not exactly. He may look OK to an outsider, but something crucial is missing. What the criminal feels is world-dependent emotional roller-coaster of ups and downs. He is a victim of his moods, which are a product of the endless instability of the world. Confucius says: "The superior man thinks of virtue; the small man thinks of comfort. The superior man thinks of the sanctions of law; the small man thinks of the favors he may receive."

How about T'IEN? Heaven = people. Appearances are deceiving: Heaven is earth!

Against the grain of our infantile individualism, we must pay attention of how much we need people (see it as sangha). No matter where we are, we always long to be around our own. We must construct sangha, become nodes  connecting like-minded people.

Is LI a problem? For many it is. But as long as you understand its limits, courtesy can be beautiful. In the West we mock courtesy as a bland form of cultural submission. Why do we prefer a considerate, tactful person? LI means hundreds of years of layer-after-layer of behaviors that get internalized by the culture.

Of course, not all courtesy is good. Confucius is clear that "make-believe" or "appearance" alone will not cut it. In fact, we notice fake protocol from the real thing (it's called hypocrisy). There is something "plastic" about it.  The lesson is that we must learn to see behind the veil of LI. Everything is, at some time or another, veiled.
Let's recall the lesson from the Upanishads: Things are near and far at the same time. It's called MAYA. Learn to clap with one hand!

See you Tuesday.  Go ahead.

*Monique made an good point: if all these people are saying the same thing there must be some truth to it. **Disclosure to the class: I'm sure in dealing with all this stuff, I must have already said "gassy" stuff in class. I plead for your forgiveness.


FacundoRaganato said...

I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing that I often make the first comment on the post, either way: I EXIST :D lol

Confucius has some really good points and some very intriguing philosophies, it's not that I hate him nor his philosophies, it's just that there are many point for which I totally disagree. And I respect that (chun-tzu)

"With Freud we learn that language has an unconscious side. It talks through our mouths! Confucius advises to be vigilant."

Professor, you're wonderful in so many mystic ways I can't even describe, and that includes all the "gassy" stuff you might have said in class, of course, we all have those "gassy" moments, even me! [Perhaps this is one of them :P]
This is one of many where I disagree with Confucius, yes of course, we can contemplate and correct ourselves for all those BlatiriBlah moments, but to be objectively careful or precise in what is said, it's not letting or exploring my unconscious, it's not letting me open myself to others in each and every moment, it's not letting me improvise, even though I might say "flcuketchenda" that word is part of the improvisation in life, and I'm willing to take the risk, make mistakes, laugh with them and keep on trying to make sense in all those "sheeelandulandos" ;) AND (for those who read my "evil" comment) this openness reflects to others, so it's a...should I say... "Bi-winning" situation! lol

I understand Confucius also considers the 'society' perspective into this, but come on, this is the very root of politics and the development of our "mask" (what the Greeks call Persona or ^*#Character#*^) or as Jung calls:
"a kind of mask, designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and on the other to conceal the true nature of the individual"

Is this the kind of society we want to build? where every time one steps on to the streets one is 'acting' the character one wants other to see? Fuck that!

I rather follow James Joyce's Stream of Consciousness or Gertrude Stein's Picasso!

As we speak, the words are symbols that represent us, through a very clean precise sentence, we understand the idea of the sentence, but we don't understand ourselves.

"Thhebest huy the wahy for hater the mignt is i rthe gor fall and livethefhert for tnier the soul"


Try it, and overcome the fear ;)

A.T. said...

...for all those BlatiriBlah moments, but to be objectively careful or precise in what is said, it's not letting or exploring my unconscious, it's not letting me open myself to others in each and every moment, it's not letting me improvise, even though I might say "flcuketchenda" that word is part of the improvisation in life, and I'm willing to take the risk, make mistakes, laugh with them and keep on trying to make sense in all those "sheeelandulandos"

Beautifully put, Facundo. But here you don't come across as pompous. This is called literature! :)

Rosa Villa said...

A chun tzu was Confucius' solution to his historical situation. If one can be righteous in the heart, then he will naturally bring about peace to his surroundings- translation, a person who is mature, magnanimous and respectful in most ways can reach their ideal self. In other words, when a person has achieved this superior level, they have resorted to humility and altruism (this is not too far from the Buddhist equivalent to enlightenment). This philosophy seems clear-cut to me: do unto others what you would want done to you. Act righteously, exercise right conduct, speech, faith, knowledge etc… be wary of the consequences that one’s actions bestows upon yourself and others –this takes me back to memories of old: having to endure the endless Cuban didactic/ life phrases with a half open eye. Although I don’t necessarily believe that this perfection is the path to the eradication of poverty and evil, it couldn’t hurt.

Jose Brown said...

Facundo, I totally agree with your take on the beauty of improvisation but let's not forget that improvisation, in itself, is reaching towards some kind of harmony. Error is undoubtably part of the reaching, and in a sense is to celebrated, but it is still error. Jazz musicians, who I feel are the strongest at musical improvisation, didn't just get up one day and decide to be jazz musicians. They worked their talented asses off! And as much talent as one is born with, it still needs to be cultivated. They gorged themselves on music theory, thumbed their saxes and trumpets till' their fingers bled, and went through all the horribly rigid exercises any other lazy man would laugh at and say, "Life's too free for all those rules." But it's the close scrutinization of the rules that led them to freedom. It's like what Triff said, "You can only be a revolutionary if you've already put your entire being into that which is being revolted," or something of the sort. Look at the subtly of it! It isn't as obvious as we'd like to think. The "freedom" of John Coltrane's notes on "Love Supreme" (hehe) are the result of all those years of rigorous practice, they're not as chaotic as they sound. He's free, but still consciously choosing the notes he's playing. He's just learned the road SO WELL that what he chooses comes a split-hair away from being natural. I suspect it's the same for the chun-tzu. He's not beating himself up in his head trying to figure out what the "right" path is, the right path reveals itself because he's been on it for very long. And he's also not saying to himself, "I need to be virtuous, I need to be virtuous," he's changed the very soil his virtue grows on so that all that CAN be grown from it is virtue. Improvisation is born of structure, just listen to any jazz combo play, there is a pattern underneath the seeming chaos; the drummer's steady beat, a recurring bass line, always, there is some kind of motif guiding the improvisation (reaching towards some kind of harmony) that is the most beautiful freedom. Indeed, if one plays so safely, he's not really getting "it", just as the person who is only courteous for the "appearance" of courtesy isn't really getting the courtesy. But I, like you, am a bit discouraged by the heavy politics of Confucianism. It is indeed very political and is based on human beings being defined by their society, just as a cell is defined by the body. But I'd like to flip it around and say it's the cells that define the body and the individual that defines society. I think there is a certain path that seems to be reflected by a lot of the stories we've discussed. The path, as I see it so far, is as follows:

Jose Brown said...

1. Born into the world (society), seduced by the world, and become ignorantly part of the world.

This is the start of the path. It is imbedded, it is our history, our culture, our family, etc. Thing is, this is just the start of the path. If one dwells for their entire life on this plateau, they're nothing more than a sheep, and only doing the courtesy for the sake of tradition and appearance. The problem I have with Confucianism is that though he, (Confucius) may have made it to chun-tzu, he is not advocating (at least not from what we've heard so far) the next, and to my opinion, most important part of the path.

2. Renunciation. This is Niyama. This part is when the individual stops his movie in it's track (Buddha, after being a nurtured prince for so long finally comes across suffering and thinks, "waaaaaaait a minute now," = Niyama. Stop! Hold on! What the F is this!? This is when the individualism of it comes into play. I think it's extremely important to detach yourself from all you take for granted if only to look at it for the first time in new light. The Buddha renounced all of his luxuries and went forth to find the path to liberation. He worked his ass off (learning jazz theory, of course) with many different teachers, all the while, utterly alone in his idea that it still wasn't enough, wasn't for him. It wasn't until he completely detached himself from everyone and found solace under the Bodhi tree that he reached nirvana, because it came from his own furious deliberation to be free. And after reaching freedom, he STILL wasn't done. The path takes another, final turn. After days of being in nothing but bliss, Buddha hears a voice in his head that tells him, "There are beings with only a thin layer of dust on their eyes, unless you teach what you have learned, they will die never being able to fully see." That's when the path led him right back to where he started.

3. Return to the world. Indeed no man/woman is an island, and to remain forever in renunciation would be to deny yourself from a very integral part of your being. We are part of the greater community, but the community is made of us individuals. What better way to change society then, than to change yourself? The chun-tzu is not only a virtuous being, he (like Buddha) is a living example of the teaching itself! Every courteous act, every warm and real smile, every shred of compassion that comes forth from his being is a direct lesson of the teaching.

Confucius, after being born into his culture, renounced his culture, became his own master, and then finally returned. Enlightenment is right here, right now. We are already enlightened, which is the beautiful part about it. It's not some far off paradise with virgins or naked winged babies, it's right here on Earth, Tien. But if you're going to play jazz, you've gotta go through the suffering of the learning, that's why when you listen to Thelonius Monk (hehe), you know you're listening to jazz and not some three year old who just picked up the piano.

FacundoRaganato said...

Those 3 points Jose, I don't know, structure it into a philosophical thesis or something, make it into a movie! :D
I totally agree with everything you just said, and it was very inspiring indeed so check this out:
Of course, (1) I gotta learn the letters A B C, to read and write. In music, it would be to listen to music and learn the theory.
(2) Then I say "waaaaait a minute" and write my own words from the words of the world: Blatiriblah
or compose my own songs. [This is where my point of the unconscious takes place]
(3) And finally to go back and say, "yo people of the world, listen to the music! or: Blatiriblah!" LOL!

How deep! :P
I JUST finished watching "12 Monkeys" and it totally blew my mind away! I think it's under the couch somewhere...haven't found it yet ;) lol

After watching the movie, the idea came to me that it's all in my mind, so every freaking microsecond I'm living it's the representation of those three points in infinite scales! :O

This is too much, Ill let it digest it for now but, this is beyond greatness :)

Have a great weekend or, I hope you had a great weekend ;)
I'm gonna search under the couch (?) :D

Everything in its right place

if it doesn't work:

Rosa Villa said...


Ian said...

Out of all these comments Rosa's "lmao" has the most weight. I see where both Facundo and Jose come from on they make and I agree with both of them.

Facundo, I agree with what you say about Improvisation and how you mention that language has an unconscious side. It seems as if those who are trying to take this path of renunciation are actually trying to make conscious the unconscious side of the language(life).
The one thing I would like to ask you to clarify is when you said "Thhebest huy the wahy for hater the mignt is i rthe gor fall and livethefhert for tnier the soul"
Four words stood out to me at the end " live for the soul" it'd be really cool if thats the message you were trying to convey.

Jose,you cover it all thats whats up.

Back to "Laughing my ass off" Pure joy expressed with personal sacrifice.
Its almost as if "lmao" is what all eastern philosophies try to teach.
Even though I've seen this a shit load of times. I've never looked at it his way.
So thank you Rosa for Sacrificing your ass to shed some joy on the posts. =]

Rosa Villa said...

That was deep Ian, Thank you. And thats exactly what my post needed - a tangential metaphysical/eastern influenced explanation on an acronym. If there is something to take from this class, it is that of the power of speculating everything to death. You have done well grasshopper. - _ -

Rosa Villa said...

: ) -this smiley face has also undergone sacrifices in aims of this blog

Elizabeth said...

Confucius takes a very humanistic approach with his philosophy. I can agree with certain points he makes, for example; "Act locally, think globally, build sanghas, become anowed." Or his idea of individualism and how it will only go so far. In order for you to know, you must feel it, and are nothing without a network of people. His principle of sufficient reason to me becomes his most important message which leads to the golden rule of not doing unto others what you would not want to be done to yourself.

Facundo, your Bi-winning situation thesis is brilliant. and Rosa your lmao was a perfect response. haha

僊 (Xian) said...

Hello class! Just a reminder on the items recommended to bring for this thursday's (06/09) yoga session:
- comfortable, loose, stretchy clothing (no skirts/dresses)
- towel and/or blanket
- water bottle
As of right now we intend to have the demonstration at the beginning of class, outdoors on the patio located on the 4th floor in building 1. We'll know for sure tomorrow, but either way it may be wise to bring some sunblock and sunglasses. Post any questions here on the blog and I'll reply as soon as possible.
See you all tomorrow. =)

Chrisss said...

Greeting Philosophers
Our last class was quite interesting, in regards to the substantial conversations of what it takes to become this virtuous, chun- tzu. Although many of us did not take liking to Confucius’ teachings, I do agree with this idea of embeddedness. In fact, I am aware that this maybe the most relative teaching to this circumstantial reality we live in. We are all connected somehow; whether it is the same high school, last name, or favorite sports team, we are all embedded in our lives to share conformity to continuance and repetition of daily traditional events, beliefs, and values for the “what-not”. I understand this, but yet want to provide a more spontaneous chun-tzu approach. One statement that professor said, that lingered with me effortlessly, was that “we need connections to move forward”. As obvious as it sounds, it sounds quite contradictory. If we are “embedded” in society, in order to move up in position, verbalization, touch, feel, notice, then wouldn’t that continue the ever-growing notion of treating people merely as a means to an end? A chun-tzu does not need connections, because a chun-tzu is not connected. If we need others to carry on a life of order, then there is more disorder and less simplicity. “To have plenty is to be perplexed”. To count on many, is to shadow the chun-tzu. For a chun-tzu, embeddedness is not a necessity, but a gateway to virtue. This line can be very thin; almost as thin as the thread of a spider. Thank you

LYDIA said...

I like a lot of aspects of Confucianism. This philosophy seems to really focus on the now. There is no talk of life after death. There is no heaven where the streets are made of gold somewhere up in the clouds. It has a way of connecting us. Heaven is T’ien, here on earth and it includes us all. In western beliefs I feel like religion and the after life creates so many excuses for bad behavior. The planet is being depleted of natural resources, pollution is ravaging the air, oceans, and soil, but according to Christianity it’s not our fault. The bible spoke of this, it’s Armageddon, no need to try and fix things. Worst yet anything bad that happens can be attributed to the all-inclusive vague statement “it’s god’s will” making you almost live your life as a means to an end. Instead of telling us what not to do Confucianism encourages us to be aware of our words and actions in the hopes of eventually becoming chün-tzu. Making us cultivate our behavior for the here and now because honestly this maybe all there is.

DGSA said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DGSA said...

Hey guys! I know I've been kind of lost. Miss you all.

I just wanted to make a comment about using people as a mean to an end (evil).

The example Rayko gave about his band was very interesting and I think there are different levels of using people as a mean to an end.

The perfect example will be Elizabeth's when she spoke about her friend calling her venting over her love life. In a way, I see it as creating a Sangha because Elizabeth's friend is not really using her but is in need of someone to listen which is different from just -using her- considering Elizabeth is HER FRIEND. On the other hand, Raykos example falls under the category of just -using people- because their band was using his ideas, and absorbed everything from him ONLY. (NOT A FRIEND)

“I alone am passive, giving no sign, like an infant who has not yet smiled.” -Tao Te Ching of Lao-Tzu

We are in constant need of people. It's inevitable.

“Who are we without our friends?” –Alfredo Triff

But what is a friend? Based on the free dictionary online:

-A friend is a person whom one knows, likes, and trusts.
-A person whom one knows; an acquaintance.
-A person with whom one is allied in a –struggle- or cause; a comrade.
-One who –supports-, sympathizes with, or patronizes a group, cause, or movement.

The words struggle and supports are vital here because when we struggle we need support from a friend and so at the the same time we need to –use them- to make us feel better. Is this really evil though? I don't think so. We are indeed using the –rules- of friendship. The fact that I need a friend for support, doesn't mean I'm going to make them take me to dinner and pay for everything (mainly taking advantage).

Based on Hun Tzu's views on evil:

“There must be the civilizing influence of teachers and laws and the guidance of propriety and righteousness, and then it will result in deference and compliance, combine with pattern and order, and end in discipline.”

As harsh as it may sound, evil lives within us. It really depends on us to follow certain -rules- in order to have harmony as a Sangha just like Facundo said on his amazing post about evilness:

“The more we face and -light the darkness- the more we become of aware of things we don't know."

And so I dare to say that I agree with Confucius systematic theory of ethics.

Danney Salvatierra

Anonymous said...

I definitely agree with Lydia...

I was speaking to my uncle about the afterlife yesterday, and he kept telling me about how we were to be rewarded in heaven if we lived a righteous life in the eyes of God. The only thing I got from his words was that, if there was no reward, he would’t waste his time attempting to promote the importance of social duties. I honestly prefer to regard the afterlife as beyond comprehension, or simply leave it as a mystery. Why does there have to be some sort of gain? We should be able to love our fellow man whether or not we are rewarded after death. It isn’t wise to concern oneself with the abstract, if we can’t grasp how to deal with what is tangible first. Heaven and hell don’t necessarily have to happen in the afterlife. I like to think of these concepts as states that are possible in this realm. An experience of love could be categorized as a heavenly state, while an experience of social segregation could be categorized as a hellish state.

-Ramon Jimenez

Anonymous said...

¶ Facundo, Facundo... Like the day ☼ and night exists the conscious and the unconscious. Some days are brighter than others and well... the same can be said about nights (some darker than others). It cannot be day OR night in entirety but rather they coexisting. Thus Confucius is saying be more conscious, don't be one to stand too close to the dark (unconsciousness). And Facundo... doesn't becoming conscious in and of itself denotes that one would have already explored the unconscious though and in constantly striving to be as such one will always be “exploring” the unconscious?

In stating; "we all have those "gassy" moments, even me! [Perhaps this is one of them :P]" ... did you in fact know this was a 'gassy' moment? Or is this the unconscious playing out in what is now, after you have read my comment, the conscious? The conscious is saying... I DON'T AGREE WITH CONFUCIUS BECAUSE blaa blaa blay ~~ when the unconscious AGREES. In say no you are saying yes because you did think of what you were going to say somewhat, yes? How can one be fully aware though, when being unaware is an involuntary action? Can you imagine him saying be unconscious (that which we are by very nature) or strive to be? Stating the obvious… But even so, the effects that saying be unconscious or be conscious are one and the same because to actively strive to be unconscious one becomes conscious because in order to be aware of your unconscious state is to be conscious about it. When one “KNOWS” he is virtuous or foolishly tells himself such monumental non-sense, he leads himself to the dark and so to get closer to the light one must seek to be virtuous continuously. One who endlessly seek to be as such is such… not the one that seek and then go thinking he has found.

By the way my dearest....
“and I'm willing to take the risk, make mistakes, laugh with them and keep on trying to make sense in all those… “ All these things the virtuous man does on his way to virtue. Make up your mind Facundo, You say yes and no and yes and NO then YES!!
Maybe you’re not doing this purposely eh? The unconscious does what it wants when it wants… the closer you are to it the more power it has. =)

♪♫ la ~ la~ laa~ loo ♪♫
Monique W ♥♥

Anonymous said...

► Well say Rosa Posa...
► Lydia _-_
Stay out of my head will you? I don't like sharing meh thoughts... But since you insist ^.^. In the east the idea of looking first to the self echoes, where as in the west the idea of looking to something/one rather than yourself to find yourself (Sounds like something very advanced and educated people do eh?). But you have highlights salient points that I feel as passionate about as you are.

Let me touch on Jose's ideas... whilst tis lovely in parts you continued to stress how a student of Jazz works his "ass" off (all expressed as being filled with effort and the benefit, however little it may be) Confucius would pet his goatee and say to you... "Hmmm" and after a very long pause go "My student, you have failed to understand my teaching and was carried away by your love for Jazzzz"... Confucius pauses again** "You musttt eliminatee... all zi effort and drive and dee z eye err from your journey to beeecomingg virtuous has Uhoo have expressed too meee just no"

Jose, you must go "Ahh.. master, student sees now"

But other than that... well said my friend.

♪♫ la ~ la~ laa~ loo ♪♫
Monique W ♥♥

FacundoRaganato said...

Monique, this cold shower was frosted! And I LOVED IT :D
I like the darkness and I rather stand close to it; therefore, I don’t agree with Confucious I seek to be virtuously by exploring the darkest caves of my unconscious, AND also my conscious light.
Consciously I don’t agree with him, unconsciously, I don’t know 
I didn’t get the YES and NO part though :P
Adored the singing :D

♫ ‘Cause all I want is the moon upon a stick
just to see what if
just to see what is ♫

Anonymous said...

Jose, you wrote that you were discouraged by the politics of Confucianism. You said, "It is indeed very political and is based on human beings being defined by their society, just as a cell is defined by the body. But I'd like to flip it around and say it's the cells that define the body and the individual that defines society". I think this flip was already understood. Or, perhaps, that it is not one or the either but both: the cell is defined by the body, but only because the cell gives the body definition. You cannot have one without the other, and neither comes first. Confucius understood the inescapability of society and he understood that every individual is accountable for that society. This is why I actually love the weight of politics in Confucianism. What I love is the application of the philosophy, the attempt to make order of chaos. It recognizes that every individual must be considered, trained, and learned in order to create the society that is hoped for.

The problem with this is human fallibility. Thus the abuse of Confucianism to create oppressive governments. I would like to discuss whether or not an autocratic state is proper, even under a perfect Confucian society. Questions rein here about free will and choice. This is where, I think, the individual gets lost and the body appears more important than the cell. Perhaps Confucius takes a step too far away from understanding the individuals importance in a society. But I could be wrong. I think this speculation could cycle and cycle.