Weisheng Mu said to Confucius: “Qiu, why do you run around preaching all over the place? Is it to show off how clever you are?” Confucius said: “I wouldn’t dare presume that I’m clever; I simply can’t stand willful ignorance.”
Are you willing to pay the price of standing up for your beliefs? The mockery, the derision, and perhaps even the hate of your detractors? The feelings of doubt, worry, and perhaps even futility that invade your mind when you are lying sleepless on your bed at night?
Or would you prefer to retire from the fray and lead a simple life well away from the greed, hypocrisy, and corruption of the world?
There is no right answer to this question despite what others may tell you. The choice is yours.
This article features a translation of Chapter 32 of Book 14 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 14 here.
(1) Nothing is known about Weisheng Mu (微生畝) beyond this reference to him in the Analects. Judging by his use of Confucius’s personal name Qiu (丘), he was either a close friend bantering with the sage or a snarky cynic who decided to put him on the spot.
(2) Some commentators speculate that Weisheng Mu was a proto-Daoist or primitivist recluse who had given up his career as an official to live on the land out of disgust at the corruption and chaos that reigned over the Zhou kingdom during the Spring and Autumn period. Confucius has a number of encounters with similar characters in Book 14 and Book 18 of the Analects.
I took this image at the Temple of the Duke of Zhou in Qufu. The duke was Confucius’s great hero and role model as a result of his tireless efforts to the establish the foundation of the fledgling kingdom of Zhou while acting as regent to his nephew, the young King Cheng.