I discovered Confucianism a few years ago, studying the background of one of my favorite poems by Ezra Pound, Canto XIII. (I would love to have a year to just study all of the Cantos). I was raised a conservative Christian, became more conservative, then ran to the other side as fast as I could go. Though not what you’d call religious in the conservative sense of my past, I’m sure I teach more Bible through literature (the many allusions, etc) than most modern preachers do. I think that because all my kids are pretty much churchgoing, but none of them know the Bible.
I hope to see Qufu, his homeplace someday.
Though I also classify myself as an existentialist, I guess I live by the teachings of Confucius more than I do anything else. I had heard Confucian doctrines criticized all my life, and it was presented as a false religion. It is not a religion, but a code of conduct, a philosophy, a system of ethics. And I like what I’ve found in it. Here is a summary of what I see as its basic points. I found this information in a a National Geographic and a couple of other sources (which I have lost) years ago, synthesized it, and have used it ever since.
1. Devotion to family and friends
2. Love and benevolence for humanity
3. Reverence and respect for ancestors. (This is described negatively by Westerners as “Ancestor Worship.” I hope to have a whole entry in the future on each of these points.)
4. Education, cultivation, and discipline of the mind.
5. Government should be the servant not the master of the people.
6. Men should think for themselves and stand up for what is right.
7. The elderly should be treated with honor and respect.
8. Men should be gentlemen, civilized, and demonstrate integrity.
I think my students in this apathetic age need these qualities. I can see why emperors after him and the Communists feared and forbade his teachings and tried to erase his memory. As long as the censors don’t take Ezra Pound away, I can teach them.