Confucius, Socrates, & Jesus

by Eric Chaet

Confucius

What is known about Confucius, to the extent that it’s knowledge & not just the residue of 2500 year old opinion, comes from The Analects, Confucius’s (Kung-fu-tse’s) students’ notes on his teachings, & legends.

Apparently, after his youthful efforts failed, he became ill, & retreated to some rustic place in his home country—which would have been a small province of what is today China, which was at the time a bunch of warring provinces—& taught a few students, who were able to pay him just enough to keep him alive. Some of his lessons are very wise, some just grouchy.

But what I appreciate about Confucius is the original mission he set for himself when he was younger.

The story is that he approached one prince or warlord after another, announcing that the prince or warlord should assign to Confucius governing of the province, that he, Confucius, would govern for the benefit of the inhabitants, not selfishly, & that everyone, the prince or warlord, Confucius, the inhabitants of the province, & China would benefit.

No one took him up on this generous offer, but no one killed him, either.

Confucius’s mission was perfectly glorious, but, if he believed he would be allowed to govern, he must have been deluded. But aren’t we all deluded when we are young? (And few get over their delusions.) What a great delusion.

Then, his teachings, fragmentary & somewhat grouchy, are about how to rule oneself, & live among others, & how a province & China should be governed, for the benefit of all the inhabitants—which is what needs to be considered, & rarely is, now—in China & everywhere else—isn’t it?

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Socrates

Socrates’ “god” or daemon was, he said, a voice that told him to refrain from this or that action, but never told him what to do.

I hear no voice, but am likewise ruled!

He didn’t think that he was wise, but found that those who posed as wise were greater fools than he—their “wisdom” based on vanity & unwillingness to analyze the words they’d learned cleverly to combine, from others doing similarly, for fees & for acclaim.

Eventually, he learned to believe that Virtue had an existence independent of any particular instance, & his loyalty was to Virtue—& Truth & Justice—not to whatever the oligarchy of the free men of Athens, his polis, decided, based on clever arguments, popular opinion, glory-seeking, & avarice.

He never earned his way out of poverty, & never commanded anyone or any enterprise—tho several youths, including Plato, took him for their exemplar—til his neighbors, having squandered their fathers’ surprisingly successful resistance against the invading horde of Persians & vassals of the Persians, & the consequent high regard of other Greeks, & the consequent prosperity of naval & commercial empire—as well as Virtue, Truth, & Justice—sentenced him to death, for undermining their self-esteem—thereby propelling him to undying fame that never stops undermining every clever wealth- & power-seizing game.

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Jesus

Jesus’ mother, Mary, apparently believed that Jesus was the predicted savior, the Christ, & that his father was not a man, but the Lord God, himself—that Jesus was the one & only Son of God. Jesus, apparently, believed this, too, or at least came to believe it between his 30th & 33rd year—which is when he went around teaching his glorious message of righteousness & loving-kindness & totally audacious rejection of Roman rule & the rule of rich & prominent locals, Greek bureaucrats, hypocritical rabbis, & the usual peer pressure to conform, not to rock the boat, for fear of worse.

What he said & did, as Matthew wrote it down, however accurately or idealized, 60 or so years after his execution, & however much he dared to behave as he did because of his delusion, is the most wonderful statement of what needs doing in an unjust situation that I’m aware of.

It’s a damn terrible pity that, rather than doing as he said (which would take great courage if you weren’t similarly deluded), many people worship Jesus & behave as tho he never said or did what he said & did. They even worship the cross upon which he was executed, which is like worshiping an electric chair.

Still, what he said & did, approximately, is recorded by Matthew, & some people in each generation manage to keep aloof from the pretensions & delusions of mere church-goers ignoring the responsibilities Jesus laid on them—& are nourished & inspired by the insights, with which to fulfill those responsibilities, barely, that he went around articulating without any authority his audiences were aware of—even if you aren’t the one & only Son or Daughter of God.

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