Sunday, April 11, 2010

Confucius says...

A few weeks ago, I was asked to participate in a virtual book tour reviewing a new book titled, God is Not One. This is NOT the official review, just a brief stop along the way. ☺

God is Not One carries the subtitle, “The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World – and Why Their Differences Matter.” Three chapters into the book, I have just finished reading about Confucianism. The chapter begins: “To many Westerners, Confucianism seems about as relevant as a fortune cookie.” I don’t know about you, but my prior experience with Confucianism is pretty much relegated to the occasional “Confucius says” humor.

After reading the first few pages of author Prothero’s synopsis, I heard myself announcing to my husband, “I think I might be a Confucianist.” Now, this also reminds me of my psychopathology class where we started with a brief quiz and ultimately proclaimed ourselves schizophrenic, bipolar and/or major depressive, because we met at least one diagnostic criteria from the DSM-IV-TR. Nevertheless, I found myself quite intrigued with Confucianism and wanted to share a few inspiring highlights from the book:

  • The earth is our home, Confucians have always insisted, and now is our time.
  • …regard the everyday human world as profoundly spiritual.
  • One of the hallmarks of Confucians is their conviction that ethics and ritual are inextricably intertwined.
  • “self-transformation…is a communal act.” Tu Weiming
  • Human beings are learners, and as we learn we become more ourselves.
  • …we become ourselves, and transform society, through others. The path to social harmony runs through human flourishing, and human flourishing is made possible through right relations with other human beings.
So what do you think? Anything about this ancient philosophy strike your fancy? I’m not sure I’m ready to convert given a few of the more traditional tenets, but I definitely enjoyed learning more about this ancient tradition that emphasizes human-heartedness.

For my "official" review of God is Not One, visit here Monday, April 26 when I’m featured on the TLC Book Tour.

18 comments:

Country Parson said...

Confucionism and Taoism are worthy of study, and, oddly enough, they have a lot in common with Stoicism. As I recall, Confucious , or maybe it was Lao Tse, once made the point that thre wasn't much reason to worry about God when we had not yet figured out how to live with each other. I think I could argue with that.

Barbara said...

I went to a liberal arts college (I earned a B.A. in chemistry, of all things!) and we were required to study philosophy for seven semesters. I feel more exposed to philosophy than knowledgeable about it, but I do recall thinking each philosopher in turn had all the right ideas ... until I got to the next one. Now I look at them all with a bit of skepticism.

There is a lot of wisdom in each faith tradition. Sometimes it depends on how terms are defined, though. The phrase "social harmony runs through human flourishing, and human flourishing is made possible through right relations with other human beings" sounds a lot like the saying of Pope Paul VI (I think it was) that if you want peace, work for justice.

Sue said...

I love what Barbara says. I liken it to a big fat diamond, each person describing one facet of it very well. Some of those facets are seemingly contradictory.

But oh, I love this:

"…we become ourselves, and transform society, through others. The path to social harmony runs through human flourishing, and human flourishing is made possible through right relations with other human beings."

Yes, yes, yes, yes, table banging yes. :)

Tess said...

Bit of table banging going on here too, Sue.

I'm unsure whether Confucianism (confused-ism??) is a philosophy or a religion. Or both.

Anyway, you've whetted my appetite for the book, which hasn't dropped through my letterbox yet.

claire said...

Your Confucian quotes fit pretty much with a lot of my current thoughts, which are also thoughts I pick up all around me.

I spent two thirds of my life seeking the 'right' religion for me. I got to explore Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism (just a tiny tiny bit of Zen, but it's never too late). Until I found my back against the wall and then Christ was my answer.

Each religion is a path and frankly they have so many points in common you would think One mind is the source of all.

By returning to Roman Catholicism,
I cut through the chase basically.
Every religion has its shadow, its unpalatable underbelly. The RC is showing its own big time at the moment. It's OK if I keep my eyes on the One...

A long answer for what was meant to be a brief comment.

I look forward to reading your interview.

kigen said...

There is an ancient oriental nature spirituality which both traditions share, but within that basic mind set, Confucius is the family-values guy from ancient China, the statesman and the conservative philosopher. Taoism is the feminist shamaness, the non-conformist and liberal artist. The way of Tao is considered subversive, it always leans the other way, so it is called "backward down the path." It is full of self humor, wisdom and compassion. I love it.

Karen said...

I'm feeling in a gentle place right now--open to just about anything--wanting to see the good in all. There is so much truth and wisdom everywhere you look...I'm looking forward to hearing what else you have to say about the book...

Stephen Prothero said...

Thanks, Lucy, for your elegant distillation of my not so elegant distillation of Confucianism. Sounds pretty good, huh? Before I wrote the book, I'd long been partial to the Daoists in their ancient beef with the Confucians. But there's lots in Confucius to commend itself to us, not least the idea that THIS is our only home and NOW is our only time--Steve Prothero

Jennifer said...

I'm intrigued.

lucy said...

CP - i think you're probably right about it being confucious who said that... here's a conversation of his from the book:

"Chi-lu asked how the spirits of the dead and the gods should be served. The Master said, "You are not able even to serve man. How can you serve the spirits?"

"May I ask about death?"
"You do not understand even life. How can you understand death?""

yes, of course there's an argument for bringing God into the equation and i know you could offer quite an eloquent one :-)

lucy said...

barbara - did you study confucianism as one of the philosophies? it seems the chinese see it more as a philosophy, ethic or way of life.

i totally agree that so much rests on 'how terms are defined'. i also see the similarities between the statements of confucias and the pope... wonder if they would agree?


sue - i love the notion of a "big fat diamond" - the different facets all shining out of one center perhaps?


tess and sue - bang those tables around the world. woohoo!!!

tess - guess you'll have to read the book to find the answers to your questions - unless you read very carefully in these comments :-) hope it arrives soon!

thymekeeper said...

Thanks for sharing this - I especially like "the earth is our home..."

lucy said...

hey claire - thanks for sounding out here! i obviously picked those quotes because they resonate with where i am today too. i also agree that each religion has it's shadow side!!

my april 26 will actually be a review versus interview - unless, mr. prothero would like to join me in further conversation. (we'll see how closely he reads comments.) ;)


kigen - thanks for bringing your wisdom to the conversation. daoism is a few more chapters down the road. you've definitely whetted my appetite!


karen - what a lovely place to find yourself... i concur! xo

lucy said...

steve p - i am truly honored to have you pop into this conversation with us and am amused at your words re: my "elegant distillation" in comparison to your own. great reading so far. i'm savoring each chapter so i can let the wisdom (& shadow) of each "religion" sink in.

hope you'll stop by again!

lucy said...

jennifer & thymekeeper - thanks for letting me know you were here... i find learning new things quite intriguing!

speck of dust said...

Thanks for this post. I volunteer at a community centre where one of the previous volunteers has come back with mental health issues and is causing everyone a lot of stress. Everyone is afraid. And so because of this they are not dealing with her very well. Wanting to remove her rather than seeing a way of allowing her to be and all learning from the experience. We could all benefit from learning to deal with rather than banish difficult people. I was feeling fear too and noticed I was feeling angry and irritated and wasn't being as pleasant as I could to her. Which will probably fuel her insecurities and paranoia. So I am going to apologise for my behaviour next time I see her and try and enter her world with love rather than want to rid her from 'our world' because of her challenging behaviour.

lucy said...

speck of dust - thanks so much for stopping by and sharing. fear can be such a nasty critter - keeping us away from each other in very real & subtle ways. it makes me stop to ponder... what does lovable look like?

Molly said...

I've always loved Confucius' approach to the ordinary man is an extraordinary man. Too often religions (or maybe just the people in power in those religions) attempt to crush self-esteem and make people feel small. And the oneness of all...as we learn and grow, so does the whole. Wonderful!

I was introduced to a book recently called Confucius Jade by Frederick Fisher. It's a fiction book, but the story is interwoven with the themes and teachings of Confucius. There's a real element of transcendence throughout, and it doesn't hurt that it's a real page-turner to boot! I highly recommend it to anyone interested in Confucius and the region itself.

"Study the past if you would define the future." ~ Confucius
Take care and happy exploring!