“Zhuang Zi: Inner Chapters” by Zhuang Zi


Confucius and the Man without Toes

A man without toes went to see Confucius, who criticized him and said, “You were careless, and the damage [to your feet] has already been done, it is too late to seek help now.” The man replied, “I was ignorant and acted recklessly, and so lost my feet. But I come today, because there is something more precious than two feet that I’m bound to preserve. The heavens encompass all things, the earth bears all things, I thought you were like the heaven and earth, who knew that you’re [narrow-minded] just like the rest!”


The heavens encompass all things, the earth bears all things. Man ought to be like heaven and earth, and not judge by his own narrowness and smallness.

According to Zhuang Zi, life and death, health and sickness, riches and poverty, fame and ignominy, all are and change according to the Way of Nature, which is One. Therefore, man ought not to judge “right” or “wrong” (“good” or “evil”), but accept all with equanimity and magnanimity. Only narrow and small minds would love one thing and despise another, and make distinctions between things that are the same by nature. The vast majority of mankind are ignorant of the Way of Nature, but the so-called sages also make the same mistake, because they seek to make a show of wisdom and a name for themselves.

(By some sort of providence, on a recent overseas flight, I was seated next to a disabled man with withered limbs. I have to admit I was a little uncomfortable when I first saw him and during part of the flight. It just so happened that I brought this book with me to read, and this story instantly changed my outlook on disability. By the end of the flight, I was thankful that I met the man.)

[more to follow]


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