I sometimes get a phrase or idea in my head that curiosity runs rampant with until I can learn the source. Recently the phrase “No matter where you go, there you are” grabbed my imagination. Eventually I learned that Confucius is believed to have authored the saying. Some with a shorter view of history might attribute the quote to Buckaroo Banzai, a character from a 1984 cult classic sci-fi comedy, but Confucius went there first. Other sayings attributed to him are:
“What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.”
“The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.”
“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”
“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.”
“Never give a sword to a man who can’t dance.”
Read more sayings <Here>
So who was this man? The man we in the west know as Confucius, was born in 551 BCE as Kong Qui in the Chinese province of Lu. His father, a military figure, died when Confucius was but 3 years old. His family was what we might call today as “middle class”. Kong Qui’s mother struggled in near poverty to raise her son. When he was 23 years old his mother passed away. As was the tradition, he then entered a three-year mourning period. Scholars believe this period of reflection helped him to develop his philosophy founded on virtuous actions. By age 30 he was considered a learned teacher. At 40 years he entered a phase of public service and was appointed Minister of Justice. The ruling families at the time valued his advice and judgement. The Chou Empire, which had ruled for 500 years was in decline, but it is believed that the principles of morality that Confucius set down helped sustain the ruling dynasties for years to come. By the time he was 56, he became disenchanted with his political life and he spent the next 12 years wandering. Following this period, he spent the final part of his life writing and teaching his disciples. After he died, the system called “Confucianism” became the official imperial philosophy and strongly influenced the subsequent dynasties.
I’ve read that this great thinker viewed himself not-so-much as the author of his ideas, but as a conduit. This is a concept I am very comfortable with. Other powerful minds I have encountered have expressed a similar view. There is nothing new in the universe, we need only open our eyes to uncover her secrets. Great teachers have come to humanity at different times and places that have opened our eyes and elevated the morality of humans. Civilizations flourished in their wake. After their passing, some of these men have been deified. Religious institutions have been established in their names. I believe that if these great men were to return and see what has been claimed in their name, they would be most displeased. This unfortunate development will not diminish my respect for these great teachers. Nor will it detract from the wisdom they have helped me see. I intend to keep my BS Detector handy.