父母在, 不远游 When your parents are still alive, do not venture abroad

父母在,不远游

When your parents are still alive, do not venture abroad

-Confucius, Analects

Possibly my most hated line from the Analects.

It has been a very tough two weeks, of drama and induced emergencies…again. Sometimes, I wonder if I should start to take imipramine, diazepam, alprazolam for myself as well.

In a rather ominous portend of my own sliding state of mind, I snapped irritably at a well-meaning someone who was trying to encourage me by quoting the above line from the Analects, words which had been regarded as the paragon of virtue and filial piety in chinese consciousness. Poor chap. He only meant well, but I was in no frame of mind to be agreeable and console and pat myself on the back with highfalutin but empty notions of piety and self-sacrifice.

I retorted with another line, the 三年之丧 or 3 years of mourning for the parents:

宰我问:“三年之丧,期已久矣。君子三年不为礼,礼必坏;三年不为乐,乐必崩。旧谷既没,新谷既升,钻燧改火,期可已矣。”
子曰:“食夫稻,衣夫锦,于汝安乎?” 曰:“安。”
“汝安则为之。夫君子之居丧,食旨不甘,闻乐不乐,居处不安,故不为也。今汝安,则为之。”

Tsai Wo asked about the three years’ mourning for parents, saying that one year was long enough.

“If the superior man,” said he, “abstains for three years from the observances of propriety, those observances will be quite lost. If for three years he abstains from music, music will be ruined. Within a year the old grain is exhausted, and the new grain has sprung up, and, in procuring fire by friction, we go through all the changes of wood for that purpose. After a complete year, the mourning may stop.”

The Master said, “If you were, after a year, to eat good rice, and wear embroidered clothes, would you feel at ease?” “I should,” replied Wo.

The Master said, “If you can feel at ease, do it. But a superior man, during the whole period of mourning, does not enjoy pleasant food which he may eat, nor derive pleasure from music which he may hear. He also does not feel at ease, if he is comfortably lodged. Therefore he does not do what you propose. But now you feel at ease and may do it.”

“Superior man” bollocks!

I harangued the hapless fellow that some parents, even before they pass on, already expect you live as though in mourning, to put on sack-cloth and lie on a bed of sticks, to mix ash into your hair and cry and beat your chest in bewildered and misplaced lamentations. And I have been 不远游 and in 之丧 for far longer than three years already…
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Very tough two weeks. The depressing lows especially hard to stomach this time, coming right after the delightful high of meeting a special someone from high school and reconnecting with tender memories from the teenage years.

But such is life.

2 thoughts on “父母在, 不远游 When your parents are still alive, do not venture abroad

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