A true man


Rich wine and meat, spice and sweet are not real tastes,
Real taste is but light.
Phenomenal feats and extraordinary skills make not the true man,
A true man is but common.

菜根譚, Vegetable Roots Discourse

The crux in the saying above is of course the subject, 至人 (zhì rén), translated here as a true (complete) man.

There are many ‘types’ of man.
In the 四书五经 (Four Books and Five Classics), one meets with the 贤人 (xián rén – a man of virtue), 闲人 (xián rén – an unoccupied man ie a bum), 圣人 (shèng rén – a sage), or maybe even 仙人 (xiān rén – an immortal !).
Learning the subtle distinctions between these manly-types aside, just getting right the pronunciation of the similar-sounding names can mean the difference between heaven and earth…

Be it 贤 or 闲, a nice long meandering and totally useless saunter can be a virtuous way to spend a totally useless afternoon.
And sometimes, one gets to see the most delightful sight. Like a cluster of small white paper kites fluttering in the sea breeze, straining against and dragging along a small stone they are forlornly tied to.

A 至人 (zhì rén – a true man) may be too high a mark to aspire to;
but one imagines with some pleasure, being a superficial and thin 纸人 (zhǐ rén – a paper man), fluttering unawares in the wind…


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