Mair 18:1

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Is there ultimate joy anywhere under heaven?  Is there a method for keeping the person alive?  Now, if there is, what should one do and what should one rely upon?  What should one avoid and what should one dwell in?  What should one resort to and what should one leave behind?  What should one enjoy and what should one detest?

That which all under heaven respect is wealth, honor, longevity, and a good name; that which they take joy in is security for their persons, rich flavors, beautiful clothes, pretty sights, and agreeable sounds; that which they look down on is poverty, meanness, premature death, and a bad name; that which they find distasteful is getting no ease for their persons, no rich flavors for their mouths, no beautiful clothes for their bodies, no pretty sights for their eyes, and no agreeable sounds for their ears.  If they do not get these things, they become greatly troubled and frightened.  Is it not foolish how this is all for the body?

The wealthy embitter themselves through frantic work.  They accumulate more property than they can possibly use.  Although they do this for the body, they actually alienate it.  The honored worry day and night over whether they are being good.  Although they do this for the body, they actually estrange it.  The birth of men is also the birth of their anxieties.  The greater their longevity the more addled they become and the longer they are anxious about not dying, a bitter fate indeed!  Although they do this for the body, they actually distance it.  The ardent warrior is viewed by all under heaven as good, but that is insufficient to keep his person alive.  I do not know whether their goodness is truly good or not.

If we consider it good,
Still it is insufficient to keep their persons alive;
If we consider it as not good,
Still it is sufficient to keep others alive.

Therefore it is said,

"If your loyal admonitions are not listened to,
You should shrink back and not contend."


Tzuhsŭ's contention
led to the ruination of his body.
Yet, had he not contended,
he would not have made a name for himself

Was his goodness truly so or not?

Now, as for what the common lot do and what they enjoy, again I do not know whether their enjoyment is really joyful or not.  I observe that what the common lot considers enjoyment is to rush headlong toward their goals in a flock as though they'd never stop.  But I'm not sure whether what they all call enjoyment is enjoyable or not.  Is there really enjoyment or not?  I consider nonaction to be true enjoyment, but the common lot find it greatly distasteful.  Therefore it is said, "The ultimate joy is to be without joy; the ultimate praise is to be without praise."

The right and wrong of all under heaven are really indeterminate.  Nonetheless, nonaction can determine right and wrong.  The ultimate joy is to keep the person alive, and only through nonaction do we come close to maintaining ultimate joy.  Let me try to explain this.

Through nonaction, heaven is pure,
Through nonaction, earth is tranquil.

Thus, these two instances of nonaction join together and all the myriad things evolve.

How nebulous and blurred!
They come from nowhere.
How blurred and nebulous!
There are no images.

The myriad things in their profusion
Are all generated through nonaction.

Therefore it is said, "Heaven and earth are nonactive, yet there is no action left undone."  Who among men can attain nonaction?

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This is a tough passage to derive a satisfactory understanding from. May as well ask what is the meaning of life. Certainly, preservation of life is given preeminent consideration ...


The ultimate joy is to keep the person alive ...


... if one can equate joy with meaning ... and meaning with simply being alive. But somehow even that seems unsatisfactory.


If indeed there is such a thing as joy ... and ZZ is not so sure there is ... perhaps it can be found not in accumulation or attainment but simply in the act of participation in life and then ...


Retire when your work is done, Such is Heaven's way.

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Oh, you know the story.  I'm pretty sure you have lived it.


What is joy?  Different for different folks.


What is happiness  Same response.


Yes, just to remain a part of the changing cycles should be enough.  But then, my expectations are  "peace and contentment".  That's not asking for too much.  If some joys happen along the way, good.  Likewise with happiness.


So yeah, non-action doesn't mean nothing is happening.  But nothing is being pushed beyond its natural speed.


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