Shepherding Strength and Redeeming Weakness

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I wrote this short essay to express my idea that it is better for society to double down on improving each person’s unique natural strengths and talents than to waste time and money trying to make them patch up their fears or weaknesses.

PDF Version: specialization-over-standardization

Interactive Archive.org Version

 

Post, essay, diagram and ending poem of essay released into Public Domain

The Moral of Gattaca (1997)

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Sterile waters have no fish, and pedants fail to see the big picture

Maxims of the Sages

Personally, I consider the film Gattaca (1997) to be among the finest films ever made. The relevant story, beautiful demeanors, moral message, retro aesthetic ambience and foresight perfectly weaves together to form a thought provoking and classic film that has stood the test of time.

For those who have not seen it, the film centers around the determined and mentally gifted protagonist Vincent Anton Freeman’s quest to overcome a world rampant with genetic discrimination—where the best embryos are genetically enhanced for a price (and the imperfect ones discarded) ; a not too distant future where job interviews consist of only a blood test to peek inside the applicant’s genetic profile. The best jobs go to the “valids” (i.e. those whose health and genetic profile are favorably above the threshold) while the rest (such as Vincent) are identified as “invalids” due to medical conditions or hereditary illnesses etc., and are relegated to the underclass of menial laborers.

I won’t go further into the plot details as reviews, clips and synopsis are freely available on the internet. I strongly recommend watching it.

However, I feel the film excellently embodies the moral maxim cited at the beginning: “Sterile waters have no fish, and pedants fail to see the big picture”(1)

Life is not about intolerance or pedantic prejudice and discrimination, but of broadmindedness and discernment. Success and sturdiness comes from using different people in accordance with their inclinations. To allow people’s strengths to shine while making allowances for their weaknesses.

In the Qunshu Zhiyao Volume II (3), it is recorded that even wastrels and scoundrels when given a post that suits their talents could become surprisingly constructive people.

On the other hand, pedantic selectiveness or partiality begets only one thing: Extinction.

According to Liao Fan’s Four Lessons (2):

Narrator: Next, we will see why Liao-Fan has no children. Liking cleanliness is a good thing, but it can become a problem if one becomes obsessive about cleanliness. There is an old saying, “Life springs from the dirt of the earth and water too clean often harbors no fish.”

Liao-Fan: The first reason why I feel I do not deserve a son is that I am overly attached to cleanliness, resulting in the lack of thoughtfulness for others…

Narrator: …harmony is the cultivator of all life.

Liao-Fan: But I have a quick temper and easily become angry….

Narrator: …loving-kindness is the basis of reproduction and harshness is the root of sterility.

Liao-Fan: I overly guard my own reputation and cannot sacrifice anything for the sake of others.….”

Thus harshness, pedantry, pride, discrimination, over selectiveness and prejudice will lead only to extinction through attrition. We must emulate Heaven and Earth, which is used as a metaphor to describe the all-embracing and boundless in Eastern thought. The petty mind will sacrifice a lot of positive potential that could otherwise have bloomed into wondrous fruits had the chance merely been bestowed.

Therefore, I believe  we ought to be tolerant in our lives, and wisely shepherd the strengths of others and skillfully tolerate their weaknesses. We should shun pedantry and consider the big picture.

To finish off, I would like to recommend Alfred Brendel’s passionate and sublime rendition of Schubert’s Impromptu Op. 90 No.3, which is the same piano piece used in the movie’s beautiful concert scene:

This blog post is released into the Public Domain

Sources:

My Public Domain posts on

(2) Liao Fan’s Four Lessons 

(3) Ancient Eastern Philosophy

(1) My free and Public Domain translation of Maxims of the Sages

Ancient Eastern Social Philosophy & Statecraft

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Calligraphy by Master Chin Kung

It is not right for a ruler who has deviated from the
righteous way of leadership to put his officials and subjects
to death. Even though the people are not being taught the
way of filial piety and the proper behavior that goes along
with it, they are being convicted and put into prisons. To
do so amounts to killing the innocent.

Scroll 10: KongZi Jia Yu

The ancients said: “If a farmer refuses to work, some
people will starve. If a woman refuses to weave, some
people will suffer in the cold.” When the growth of all
things is limited by seasons but we consume them as if
they will be available without limitation, the resources
will sooner or later be depleted. The ancients governed
and planned meticulously and they would have had the
foresight to ensure the treasury had enough reserves to
sustain the nation.

                                                            Scroll 14: Han Shu, Vol. 2

Mencius said to Duke Xuan of the state of Qi: “When
a lord treats his subordinates like brothers, they will
pledge allegiance to him in return. When a lord treats his
subordinates like slavish animals, they will regard him as a
stranger on the street. When a lord treats his subordinates
like dirt and weeds, they will regard him as a robber and
an enemy.”

Scroll 37: MengZi

In this post, I would like to bring attention to some profound Ancient Eastern Sagely works and maxims that are particularly relevant today. For instance, the above quotes succinctly  point out the looming calamity that will surely follow our consumerism and miscarriage of justice ridden legal system. All these quotes are from the Qunshu Ziyao, which is a multi-volume work compiled on the orders of the founding sovereign of the Tang Dynasty that includes wisdom accumulated from the times of the predynastic Sage Kings to the Sui Dynasty (over 3,000 years of wisdom). Please read the full texts below:

Volume I:

https://archive.org/details/TheGoverningPrinciplesOfAncientChina360Passages

Volume II:

Volume II: Governing Principles of The Ancient Sage Kings of the Middle Kingdom 

Additional Resources: My free and Public Domain Essays on Eastern Philosophy: 

Translation of a profound article outlining the secret meaning of Confucius’ Great Learning:

https://archive.org/details/TheSecretOfConfuciusGreatLearning

Essay on the profound connection between Buddhism and other religions :

https://archive.org/details/ThePurposeOfMonotheismAndItsFuture

Eight Legged Essay on green living from the perspective of Eastern Philosophy:

https://archive.org/details/EightLeggedEssayFreedomAndVirtueComesFromGreenSimplicity

Moreover, I also wish to recommend my free and Public Domain translations of the Maxims of the Sages (Ming dynasty era compilation of sagely aphorisms) and Upasaka An Shi’s Discourse on the 48 Inquiries of Non Violence (a Qing era sagely work on humane living):