Friendship Untamed

At one point this afternoon, I felt as if I had entered a maths problem as the ancient bus I was on sputtered up a hill, slower, it seemed, than walking pace: if the weight of the sardined passengers is X, and the bus horsepower is Y, going against an incline of Z, etc, will it make it to the top?
I don't know anymore, and don't know if I ever did, but I arrived.
Sometimes the passage of time brings circumstance not of our own making. I think the cracks in that vessel may be mended by wisdom and humility. But whence wisdom - in Mengzi it is written that when friendship with virtuous scholars in the kingdom is not enough to satisfy a man, he consults the men of antiquity through the poems and books they wrote and considers their lives: this is what is meant by "making friends with men of antiquity." (Wan Zhang II)
Thence my friendship with Mengzi, and as I imagine him patiently answering questions, I also cannot help but feel that sometimes the questions he is asked come close to provocations. He is so often asked to defend himself or his views. He calmly goes through the differences inherent in similar situations that call for different responses. And once he answers, just like when Socrates does, his interlocutors do not press on, but disappear from the dialogue, having served their purpose in clarification.
So maybe one might think of people in one's own life: requiring different responses according to situation, and the message one is to deliver providing that one is speaking from order, discernment, and respect. Maybe one's previous mistaken conduct calls one to take to the high road. The person on the high road, without judging, might wish to extract themselves from further dialogue if clarity has been reached. I do not know that clarity is always a two-way street: some interlocutors disappear when clarity has been spoken - one does not know if the lesson was clear to them, too, or just to the wise man, and the seekers of the wisdom reading the wise man's speech.
There is a passage in Mengzi (Gong Sun Chou I) where he gives an illustration of two types of men: one who does not want to be defiled by bad men and refuses contact or even to accept presents from them; the other who does speak to the bad man, thinking that the bad man cannot affect his essence because he knows who he is - yet this man, if he is asked to remain in a certain office will stay, even if remaining there causes him to become impure. Mengzi says that the ideal is in between the two. One does not have to stay on past clarity, in some situations.




The natural order of friendship has no place for friendship gone wild - what I mean by this is that boundless love begins to look to me like silence in some situations, not more continued dialogue, but an absence. To illustrate what I mean, it is said that an old church father observed that the people who go on and on about the truth are those who have not obtained it yet: the person who has, need not speak of it because he or she is living it. To obtain truth from such a person, one must ask. Silence is broken by the question: the questions asked by Socrates of others as he performs his maeiutics; the questions asked of Mengzi as he qualifies discernment.
In both cases, we are left with dialogues, through which we "make friends" with those men of antiquity and begin to conceive how it is that one might tame one's friends, or external relations. It is said in Mengzi that a great ruler of the people, who is not to be taxed with every last detail of life by tending his own fields or crafting his own tools, teaches the people how to possess themselves as well as the proper relations among family and others. (Teng Wen Gong I)
Who is there to teach us about friendship today? Yesterday I looked at a children's workbook published by one of the major and ostensibly most esteemed publishers of EL educational books to find a dialogue where a 'toy' incessantly jeers another 'toy' and is made apologise - only to be told immediately, but don't worry, you are still my favourite toy. It is not a story of repentance or respect: the words sorry may be mumbled and expected to be a panacea - even if multiple insults were uttered, and only an unspecific sorry.
We are told in Teng Wen Gong I that a country had better first tend to its people, not mere husbandry of the land. If a country has X people, and the respect is Y, going against life problems numbering Z, will they make it?



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