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Sketch in Early Autumn - Retrieve the Fading Humanity

13 August 2011
Sketch in Early Autumn - Retrieve the Fading Humanity

By Changhua Wu, Greater China Director, The Climate Group. 

I have been guiding my son through Yu Dan’s 'Confucius from the Heart' recently, helping him understand Confucius thoughts and wisdom. Although written in English, it is simple and clear. My 11-year-old son takes it seriously, commenting and sharing his own interpretations from time to time. Children often bring up thoughts that appear to be naïve. Nevertheless, I truly hope deep within that he would come to realise the wisdom (‘’Tao’’) of living and humanity even if he cannot get a complete picture. I would like him to learn to distinguish between right and wrong with the most natural kindness and endowed understanding (‘’Tao’’) in his way to adulthood, caring for the world and the society.  

The embodiment of humanity begins with it the relations between human and nature. According to Analects of Confucius, Tian (heaven), Di (earth), and Jen (human) are the three 'talents'. We should integrate the height of heaven and the 'thickness' of earth into our hearts. Only when heaven, earth and mankind are perfectly integrated can our power be strengthened.

But modern societies go blindly after economic growth, breaking the harmony and consolidation that our ancestors have long been in pursuit of.

In the past two centuries, we underwent industrialisation, depleting natural resources and endlessly draining the nature. We even arbitrarily instil all the pollutants we have produced into rivers, lakes, meadow and farmlands.

Nature is a complete organism with everything inside closely linked. And mankind, as part of nature, is affected by the pollutants we have made. They get back into our bodies through soil, air, and water, leading to the emergence of epidemic, influenza, and other health problems that torture and harm us both mentally and physically. Human beings thus become weaker and weaker.

Economic growth is supported, yet limited by the capacity of nature. We cannot excessively consume the minerals and resources and should not continue to seek economic growth with the lack of materials.

In the modern era, people are wrongly positioning the relations between mankind and the nature. People’s mind-sets, rules of behaviour, and moral norms thus become shallow. Natural resources are over-consumed, and the quality of the environment is getting from bad to worse. Most people have abandoned the perspective they used to hold toward the connections between heaven, earth, and themselves. With our foundations lost, how can we talk about sustainable development?

It is easy to see shocking news in both traditional and modern media these days. For example: ‘5000 tons of Chromium waste flows from Nanpanjiang River in Yunnan to Pearl River in Guangdong, causing 37 deaths through drinking water in Yunnan'. Or 'Przewalski's Gazelle, once easily spotted in inner-Mongolia, Ningxia, Gansu, Xinjiang, Qinghai, and some other regions, can only be found in Qinghai nowadays; and has been put on the list of World Endangered Species. Overproduction, over herding and the rise in the number of cars, constantly scare off the precious species, worsening their living environment.'

Such events are jeopardizing people’s daily life and properties. They harm the peacefulness of our minds. As the saying goes, ‘When the mind is a mess, the moral deteriorates. When the moral deteriorates, the behaviour goes wrong. When the behaviour goes wrong, there are no rules.' The saying is reflected in today’s world. The society is unsettled. People no longer trust the government, the corporations, or, in fact, anyone around them. Greed, selfishness, and egoism become the main stream. With shallow people everywhere, do Tao and Yi (right) still exist? The wisdom of frankness promoted by Confucius lies only in the dreams of some self-aware people.

Parents are worried about the environment in which their children are raised nowadays. Hillary once wrote a book called ‘It Takes a Village’. She talked about how she nurtured her daughter, Rodham. Family education is crucial to a child’s growth. However, the culture of the society and the environment is the key to the formation of a child’s global mind-set. This affects how a child grows, the country, and even the future of the world.

Confucius said, ‘Repay harm with righteousness and repay virtue with virtue.’ How can a child born after year 2000 form their way of living? In this society full of hatred, how can a child accurately distinguish harm from virtue? How can a child clearly analyse if what they do aligns to the right (Yi)?

As a mother, I will never give up. Start educating your child to be a superior man! The difference between the superior and wicked human may seem apparent to a child. Be a kind and decent gentleman, be a superior man. Seek the level of “worries-free of the benevolent”, “puzzle-free of the wise”, and “fear-free of the courageous”.

Be someone with a dream and set up a stable starting point, reserving “the resources to create happiness”. The path of growing up in life depicted by Confucius is the best summary of what we should hold on to, “At fifteen I set my heart on learning; at thirty I took my stand; at forty I was never in two minds; at fifty I understood the Decree of Heaven; at sixty my ear was attuned; at seventy I followed my heart’s desire without overstepping the line.”

Read more of Changhua Wu's thoughts. 

Blog post translated by Sofia Li-Hsin Lee. 

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