Hey everyone! Welcome to my very first blog. I'm looking forward to periodically posting about one of my favorite things in the world: Chinese medicine.
I welcome and highly encourage any thoughts, comments, feedback, etc., about my posts. Thanks!
This blog, as it turns out, is going to focus more on Confucian thought, which is highly influential in Chinese medicine traditions.
Someone just sent me an article that was published in the Wall Street Journal called "The College of Chinese Wisdom." The basic premise is that confused college students, who can't quite "find themselves" or figure out what they want to do, should look to the wisdom of Confucius (Kong Fuzi), Zhuangzi, and a few other Chinese heavyweights for guidance. Here's the link to the original article.
The language of the article gets tricky for me in a few places - namely where it encourages the reader to not try to "discover your authentic self," and that "being insincere, being untrue to ourselves helps us grow." Whoa! It's my personal belief that insincerity is a current plague in our society...so, what do the authors mean by giving this advice in the name of Confucius and Zhuangzi? Would Zhuangzi really agree that "looking within is dangerous"??
Now, if I am understanding the authors correctly, they are not using the term "self" in the typical Western, conventional way, and that they are instead suggesting that the entity that we think of as our "self" is transient, impermanent, and subject to constant change. This would be more of an "Eastern" way of looking at the self. (This concept is illustrated by the Sanskrit word anatman, or "no-self.") Therefore, to discover this "self" is a futile endeavor, because there is nothing permanent to hold onto...the self is not an entity, per se.
By saying "being insincere helps us grow," they are (as I interpret it) referring to a volitional act of breaking out of old, seemingly fixed habits that may be harmful to ourselves, harmful to others, and keep us in a predictable rut where life loses its spontaneity. In this light, they don't really mean "insincerity" as we usually use that word, but as a method to not be a victim of the self, of the ego, pulled every which way by its desires and fears. (At least, that's what I hope they're saying...I would be saddened to think that they are encouraging confused college students to literally be untrue to themselves.)
Interpreting this advice literally might not be what the authors intended, and my concern is that this kind of language might be lost on the average reader....so, in the spirit of Confucian thought (despite my aversion to many Confucian ideas), I would suggest employing the practice of "rectification of names," where use of the proper name for something will bring about understanding and an accordance with reality. Again, I doubt they are encouraging the reader to be literally insincere and inauthentic...I think they are instead encouraging the examination of one's behaviors, one's choices, and checking in to see if they are in alignment with their deepest aspirations. (This, in Chinese medicine, could be seen as the communication between the Heart and The Kidney....I hope to write more on that connection soon!)
I would encourage everyone to be as authentic as possible, to be as sincere as possible. to be as vulnerable as possible, and to look closely at this seemingly real entity we call the "self," and see clearly that when we are sincere, authentic, and vulnerable, we can see that the "self" is an idea, not something concrete, but just a firmly-held belief, and that when we no longer hold onto it, we are free to let life flourish, just as it is, in any direction.
EJ Fry, L.Ac.