Monday, November 17, 2014

shu, li, zhong yong and the battle now!

early, late earth?

i'd like to stress the importance of li in relation with shu & try to problematize the quadrant of prudence (yan ren) with decisiveness (ming). the answer is zhong-yong. the right balance that best reflects t'ien. as it turns, the only way to achieve zhong-yong is practicing it.

this reflects the chun-tzu. one can read zhong-yong with aristotle glasses: 
ieverything that is continuous and divisible it is possible to take more, less, or anequal amount, and that either in terms of the thing itself or relatively to us; and theequal is an intermediate between excess and defect (ethica eudemia, 1106, a 2629)
intermediate between excess and defect, which is why zhu xi, the neo-confucianist master would advise,

"a friend should neither be too close or too remote." (a deep thought)

this middle is zhong-yong. one more thing. zhong-yong has two sides: xing is the internal (thought-driven), while li is external, (behavior-oriented). the problem of unifying the li and xing is exactly the problem of combining and unifying the internal and the external. zhong-yong can be seen as a balance between internal(self)/external(others)-axis intersecting a consensus/community axis. according to confucius, this is how we become political & social individuals. there is no possibility ofjen (virtue) without a community.     
what we learn from confucianism concerning li is that as society, we face a disorientation. rituals have become fetishized. there's a fresh, redeeming possibility for genuine exchange, but it takes to turn the present value of the ritual upside down. 

perhaps in the face of fetishized and stereotyped rituals we have the imperative to create our own lifrom scratch. decisiveness is critical to find transcultural lost symbols, re-inscribing them into new contexts. there is always room for transformation and novelty. our generation is in need of material and spiritual actions-and-reactions. we could help replenish our community with a renewed sense of purpose. in the end this yajna, only a bit different. an offering to our possible best selves. 

we have speculated in class whether we still have time to change things in the world. what if that vision needs to be revised? look at the astronomy and geology of things. the process at work, the flow that moves through things. the history of the world is a history of ghosts: people, traces, remnants scattered, dispersed into geological & historical time. the world is in constant flow. why fighting that? is a doomed planet in the distant future that unpalatable? 

oh, but that's far away.

our task is the present. our deeds belong in this instant, our future is NOW, this dharma in our defective but always perfectible world.

our battle is in this generation!

i am closing this post next wednesday 11pm.


Leandro Mendez said...

The way that I see things is that our li's have been, in a sense, forced upon us from our sorroundings, the society that we live in. We cannot control where we are born or who our parents are to get the best li possible, so we have to do the best we can with what we have. Culture is the ultimate li. From the moment we are born we are introduced to the culture of that society, all the rituals: from mannerisms to what we do in our free time. Culture is so ritualistic that we do not really think about it, some people may not even realize it, they are so absorbed by their li's that they would die to protect it. This is one of the reasons why the world cannot be at peace, in my opinion. Li's can change, that is the beauty of it, we have the control of how to change them once we have the discipline and an open mind. The only way that we can save the world is by changing our li's, it's going to be very hard because some people cannot fathom this idea but it is the best way to start a new world.

Anonymous said...


I believe we have the power to change things, we have always had it we just havent used it because we are constantly distracted by things that are ultimately useless to us. We want to get into the best school, have the newest phone, always have a five year plan and secure a future for ourselves. We worry so much about our future as if we were the only thing changing, we forget the world will change with our generation also. The things we waste our time on now, may not even matter so much in the future. None of this will be important during a time of war,disease, or when there are no trees or fresh water left for us.
I think we need to become our best selves now, and take some time to get together and think about our options. Then maybe we could re-establish what is truly important and what we should be focusing on. Instead of trying to change our old car for a new model, we should try to change our habits and our mentality. We can work together to do something that counts and believe that we are not doomed, this world is not doomed. We can still change the road were on but we have to do it together. I think that if we could all realize what will make a difference and then act on it, we could be better and do better.

Sonicah Sanon :3 said...

Is it really possible to change the Li of an entire society for the better? So many cultures and so many beliefs are traveling through the veins of this earth, so many lost souls are careening within a warp, within strange faiths filled with perverted doctrine. They've been molded by this Li, its the only spiritual training they've had-now how easy would it be to divert them to a much higher Li? In my opinion I think its between them and T'ien Ming if they want to change their Li. There will always be corrupted souls who are still finding their way from darkness, can we count on brainwashing them with a sort of "eat, pray, love" thing? These people are set in their ways, all we can do is be patient with them and practice Shu. Ultimately we can't change the world, but we can change who we are and how we embrace it. If society crumbles, then so be it, its all a cycle, it has to begin and end somewhere.

Anton Martinez-Cid said...

It is difficult to argue the importance of li or it's positive benefits, however I find there to be a great danger to li. The capital punishment in class is an example of li in action, kill criminals who cross a certain point, yet we are unsure of the ethicality of this issue. To adopt ritual is seemingly good but in situations in which the ritual may be bad how can the superior man break it. Of course we must follow li to a level of moderation, but is breaking li even once not a violation of it's very principle? Were we to abolish the death penalty would that not be a violation of the previous li. The solution seems to be that li is agreed upon by the general consensus, but that is a thinly veiled bandwagon. Were the nation to suddenly awake tomorrow and agree that tattoos are immoral and should be outlawed we would not abandon our current li upon the whim of the population. Li requires moral correctness. If a li is wrong, possibly intrinsically, than the li must be abolished even if it jeopardizes the safety of the state. The state is a reflection of the people, and a state which follows morally bankrupt li cannot excuse itself upon tradition.

Brigitte Fillmon said...

In my humble opinion I think our Li is in consistent evolution. Our surroundings influence our state of being, and our state of being is in constant movement. I like to think of Li as a one day at a time path; Each day focusing on bettering oneself and having moral rightness within ourselves and creating the Li that we desire, both present and future Li. When it comes to Li being adopted by society as a whole, I don’t think that idea is a permissible as though through an individual. Every person’s standards of morality and path differ. Having a universal Li doesn’t seem to be attainable, so let the world be and accept it as it is, without the world corrupting your sense of principle.

Christopher Pineiro said...

I think Li as a general concept is amoral. Li can keep people trapped in their ways despite changing surroundings and situations. It can keep an individual who is devoted to their own Li stuck living a harmful lifestyle (harmful to themselves or to others) because they worry so much about it. It could also restrain a whole culture or civilization from progressing. However, there are two sides to the Li coin. A positive Li could take an individual to heights unattainable by a non-ritualistic person. You may not always feel like going for a run or studying but if you decided upon a Li of waking up early every morning to run or dedicated a certain amount of hours to study and improve academically, you will absolutely benefit yourself. On a larger scale, if everybody in a culture decides upon a Li of not littering and being less wasteful, the world would be improved. I think the key is recognizing when to give importance to Li and knowing when to let it go and let something higher take precedence.

atRifF said...

getting rid of a "li" only brings back a different "li" in its place.

Amanda Collazo said...

In order to change li, a new xing needs to be cultivated. However there is the problem of bringing the two in unison. It’s easier to have thoughts but to speak and act in accordance with those thoughts. Changes are possible in larger scales and new li’s can be formed as a result but it starts with individuals and work its way collectively. And as it has been addressed in class, affirmative action improves however it is insoluble. Throughout history we have come a long way however we still have a long way to go for improvement. And despite an evolution for the better, insoluble problems will remain. In essence, work to make changes, forage a new li but let what follows flow naturally. I very much concur with what Brigitte has to say. The world is a constant evolution, so are we and so does Li. Your own li is contingent upon where you are in your own evolution within the given contexts. Be aware of the li that you practice and work to make the changes as you out grow old li’s and establish new ones.
On a different note, one aspect I didn’t agree in Xunzi’s excerpts was the view that man’s nature is evil. Nor do I think people are intrinsically good. Rather, we have dark aspects in ourselves and good and therefore the potential for either to be expressed. Or even ambiguity of the two. For the most part I expect people to practice very selfish li’s but there is always potential there within them to behave and be otherwise. I don’t agree that benevolence is a conscious effort all the time. Sometimes it can be an innate urge to want to do good just like malevolence isn’t always something innate.

Anonymous said...

I was immediately grasped by the thought that no one friend should be too close or too distant. I have always been happy to know that all of my friends are very close to me but then I began to think about what the true meaning and intent for saying this is and it makes a sense to me in tehj reasoning for saying that. The things that we go throughout in life are usually defined when we go through something and give me the exact reasoning for what this is being said and why this becomes something that I and allot of others should true take in consideration in our lives.