A Conversation with Confucius

This poem is an imaginary dialogue between Kongzi (Confucius) and Mozi, two ancient Chinese philosophers. It was written using couplets.

Kongzi:
The goal that my teachings have planned
Is social order throughout the land.

Mozi:
How will you achieve this noble aim
And make for yourself a name?

Kongzi:
I will teach people to follow ren,
Which is love for the other one.

Mozi:
And how will you teach
People this ideal to reach?

Kongzi:
I will teach people to follow rites,
So that each in good habits delights;
In this way, people will find the good
And become superior, as they should;
And when people have attained this goal,
Society will be orderly and whole.

Mozi:
What are the habits people should heed,
So that your noble plan will succeed?

Kongzi:
People should follow what is right,
So their futures will be bright;
People should follow traditions
And their elders’ admonitions;
Children should love and respect
Their parents, as is correct;
Leaders should be obeyed,
And the city’s taxes paid.

Mozi:
Sometimes traditions are a waste,
And should not be blindly embraced;
Sometimes the people’s need
Does away from habit lead.

Kongzi:
For the most part, though,
Habit is the way to go;
For order to be maintained,
Traditions should be retained.

Mozi:
Should children also give protection
To others’ parents and show affection?
Should people love the stranger,
Or does this invite certain danger?

Kongzi:
Practical is my teaching
And never overreaching
In what man can achieve
And give also receive;
To love strangers is not right,
For we can only be polite
To those that we don’t know,
And then on our own way go.

Mozi:
But if people are partial,
And they cannot marshal
Love that is unselfish,
Then we can only wish
For inner social order
And peace on our border;
For partiality is a fire
That continues to burn higher;
When selfishness is the rule,
All our actions become cruel.

Kongzi:
People must know their place,
And not your ideas chase;
When people follow the rules,
They don’t descend to be fools.

Mozi:
But if the world changes for us,
Then we are forced to discuss
Whether our current actions
Keep for us their attractions.

Kongzi:
People must keep tradition,
Change is an imposition;
Fate cannot be changed,
For all is prearranged.

Mozi:
Rituals are a heavy load
That causes virtue to erode;
People are always free
With heaven to agree,
Or they can deny its will
And feel the ego’s chill;
The will of heaven above
Is truly universal love;
We cannot choose to hate
One, and lovingly relate
To one that is near,
For heaven is clear
In that to truly love one
We must love everyone.

Kongzi:
Impractical is your thought,
Not something to be taught;
People can only love those near,
For all cannot be a peer.

Mozi:
I cannot change your mind;
I can only gently remind
That if people do not follow
Heaven, they will swallow
Some easy to learn teaching
Or some familiar preaching;
If people are self-seeking,
They will always be critiquing
Those who are different
Even to the extent
Of ruining social accord,
A result to be abhorred;
But if people see their interest
Shared with others, this will arrest
Selfishness of all variety,
As peace comes to society.

(written c. January 2013)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s