A man named Wang Tai had lost both feet. He lived in the state of Lu. Seeing that he had as many disciples as Zhongni himself, Chang Ji (Constant Seasons) went to discuss this with his teacher, Zhongni.
"Although both of Wang Tai's feet have been amputated," Chang Ji asked, "he has many disciples in Lu, as you do. But when he stands, he doesn't teach. When he sits, he holds no discussions. When students go to him, they are empty. When they come back, they are full. Is it possible to teach like that without words? What's more, can someone whose body is not intact have a whole heart? What kind of person can he be?"
"This master is a sage," replied Zhongni. "I have neglected to study with him sooner. If I would take him as a teacher, everyone should, even beyond the borders of Lu. I would have everyone in the world follow him."
"He has lost both feet, but he's addressed as Venerable Wang. That implies that he's far from ordinary. How does he use his heart so unusually?"
"Life and death loom large, but they don't deter him. If heaven and earth were to turn over and fall in disaster, it would cause him no loss. He is clear and has no delusions. He obeys the ordained changes of all things, and he keeps to that lineage."
"What do you mean?"
"When we examine things, we look at differences--the differences between the liver and gallbladder, for instance, or the differences between the states of Chu and Yue. Then we look at the similarities of things, and we see the ten thousand things as one. He does the same, except that he does not gain knowledge through his ears and eyes, but through a dynamic heart that is always in virtuous harmony. When he looks at the unity of all things, he does not look at what has been lost. If he looks at the loss of his feet, he regards it only as leaving behind some dirt."
"So he acts within himself," said Chang Ji. "Maybe he knows his own heart. Maybe in his heart of hearts, he is constant. But why do others make so much of him?"
"People don't look use flowing water for a mirror. They look into still water. Only that stillness can hold any kind of reflection. Of all the things that this earth holds, only the pine and cedar stand out for being green in all seasons. Of all that heaven has held, only Yao and Shun stood out as being the most correct. Because they had the fortune to live correctly, only they could make the lives of others correct.
"For example, musicians begin by sounding the right pitch; the fearlessness of a single warrior can make a difference when thrown in among nine armies. If a single pitch or one hero can have such an impact, it should be the same for an official in this world. They who must serve all creatures resides in their own bones, is attentive and observant, understands as soon as they see--and their heart never dies! If such a person were to one day rise above the mediocre, all people would rise together too! Who is willing to do that?"
The Tao of heaven and earth is ultimately about reversal. Increase follows decrease. Therefore, a sage addresses both degeneracy and reform, trying to resolve all endeavors even more. The beauty of that is to achieve harmony. The loss of that brings on authoritarianism.
Therefore, the sages speak of Tao in this way: Do not fail to cultivate ritual and righteousness. If honor or shame are not established, if the people have no sense of honor or shame, then there can be no governance. If there is no knowledge of ritual and righteousness, then laws will not be correct. If no higher good abolishes disgrace, no one will be directed by ritual and righteousness. Without correct laws, there cannot be order. Without knowing ritual and righteousness, there cannot be active laws. Laws can kill, but they cannot make people filial or teach them to be filial. You can punish people from stealing, but you cannot coerce them into being incorruptible.
The sun endures, the moon is so;
Why should they repeatedly set?
My heart is as sad
as unwashed clothes.
Wordlessly, I ponder that,
unable to spread wings and fly.