井底之蛙

6/18/2008

Celebrity endorsements

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 1:10 am

For those of you who missed it, Al Gore endorsed Barack Obama. I’m not sure how much this matters. Very few Gore supporters were going to vote for McCain. Still, Americans tend to take these celebrity endorsements pretty seriously, or at least campaigns like to talk about them. Chinese emperors were also fond of celebrity endorsements, specifically from recluses. These were not quite celebrities in the modern sense as they would have avoided being on TV like the plague, but they were highly regarded. The most famous category of recluses were those who moved into the mountains or swamps to avoid polluting themselves with corrupt politics. Needless to say these were exactly the types emperors wanted to win the endorsement of. Fan Ye (398-446) wrote about this.1

The [Book of] Changes proclaims “Great indeed is the significance of the timeliness of (the hexagram) Dun (Withdrawal).” It also says (in the hexagram Gu [Bane]), “He does not serve a king or lord; he elevates in priority his [own] affairs.” For this reason, although Yao was praised as “modeling Heaven,” he could not humble the lofty integrity of [Xu You from] north of the Ying (who lived unencumbered in the mountains). And while King Wu was “utterly praiseworthy,” still the purity of the [Lords of] Guzhu forever remains intact (referring to Bo Yi and Shu Qi, who starved to death in the mountains rather than compromise their principles).

Staying outside of politics is of course a good choice for the recluse. If you attach yourself to a ruler you loose some of that above the fray thing that comes with being a hermit. Plus, like Al Gore in 2003 you might end up endorsing the wrong person (i.e. a looser)

From these examples on down, the influential current became increasingly prevalent. The path of prolonged departure has never varied, yet the tactics of those inspired to action are not single in kind. Some lived in seclusion, seeking to maintain their resolve. Some turned and fled to keep their inner principles intact. Some sought personal tranquility, thereby repressing their impatience. Some removed themselves from danger in pursuit of security. Some denied themselves in the profane world and thereby stirred their mettle. Some condemned worldly things, thereby arousing their purity.

People become ‘recluses’ for any number of reasons. Gore is not really a hermit, even if he did have a beard for a while, and it was pretty much inevitable he would end up endorsing somebody. Getting an endorsement from someone sort of out of category can be even better. During the Republican primaries everybody wanted Ronald Reagan’s endorsement. He was dead, however, and rather than having Nancy put them in touch with him they all went across the pond to kiss Margret Thatcher’s ring. That, I guess, is a good endorsement

Nevertheless, in observing the way they gladly dwelt among the crosshatched cultivated field-lands, or went worn and haggard out by the rivers and seas, must it necessarily be that they sought intimacy with fish and birds, and found pleasure in forests and plants? It might also be said that it simply was where their innate nature led them. Thus, a court appointee who had suffered disgrace, though repeatedly degraded would not depart from his state (referring to Liuxia Hui, a staunchly ethical man praised by Confucius), whereas one whose moral integrity would bring him to tread out on the sea could not be swayed by a ruler of a thousand-chariot state (referring to, Lu Zhonglian, another paragon of morality lauded by Confucius). Even were one to try to convert or change their chosen course, one simply would be unable to affect them.

I bet some of these people are happy to be out of politics, or to stay out of it if they were never in. And of course in America it is hard to think of too many cultural or whatever figures who matter much politically. I suspect a lot of famous scholars get tired of being asked for blurbs and Bob Dylan is tired of getting tapes from the “next Bob Dylan” Of course if you manage it right you can both be a hermit and have influence. You could reach the point where you were like Al Gore, and major political figure who does not have to do any of that annoying politics

Although so obstinate they might be classed along with the one who would sell his name (only for the right price, referring to Confucius, in Analects 9.12), nevertheless, cicada-like they could cast off their slough amid the clamor and dust, and go off alone beyond the confines of the world. How different are they from those who would bedizen themselves with knowledge and craft in order to chase after fleeting gain! Xun Qing (i.e., Xun Zi) had a saying: “With will and purpose refined, one can be haughty before wealth and nobility; with the [proper] Way and justice exalted, one can slight kings and dukes.”

When the Han ruling house weakened in the middle of its rule and Wang Mang usurped the throne, the pent-up righteous indignation of the scholar-officials was brought to the extreme. At that time, those who rent their official caps and destroyed their ceremonial headgear, who went hand in hand bolstering each other, and who abandoned him, seem incalculable in number. Yang Xiong (53 B.C.E.—8 C.E.) said, “When the wild goose flies in the distant heights, how could the archer catch it there?” This bespeaks their distant removal from harm.

Emperor Guangwu treated with respect “Remote Ones,” seeking them out as if in fear of losing them. Plumed banners, bundled silk, and carriages with reed-padded wheels—the accouterments of official summons—passed one another among the cliffs. Those such as Xue Fang and Pang Meng were invited to court yet declined to go, while Yan Guang, Zhou Dang, and Wang Ba went but were not to be humbled. Everyone in all directions acquiesced [to Guangwu’s rule], and men of conviction cherished his humaneness. He most certainly was one who befit the dictum “he called to office those who had retired into obscurity, so that throughout the kingdom the hearts of the people turned toward him” (referring to King Wu of Zhou, from Analects 20.1).

Emperor Suzong likewise was deferential to Zhengjun and summoned to audience Gao Feng, whereby they fulfilled their resolve. But after that time the virtue of the emperors gradually declined, and the perverse and wicked [eunuchs] dominated the court. The gentlemen who remained at home [and did not serve) stolidly upheld their integrity, ashamed to be ranked and associated with the ministers and highest officials. When it reached the point where their indignation was so roused that they paid no regard to consequence, many became extremists (literally “lost their moderate course of action”). Herein by and large I have recorded (accounts of) those who severed ties with the dusty world never to return, equals, of the “Ones Who Took Action”(zuo zhe), arranging them in this section.

[The “Encomium” goes:]

By rivers and seas they went obscured, forgotten;

In mountains and forests they went off forever.
They ranged their spirit afar on distant winds;

They freed their feelings beyond the clouds.
Their Way drew near to Vacuity and Wholeness;

Their deeds turned away from taint and perversion.

—AB

The text without my comments

The [Book of] Changes proclaims “Great indeed is the significance of the timeliness of (the hexagram) Dun (Withdrawal).” It also says (in the hexagram Gu [Bane]), “He does not serve a king or lord; he elevates in priority his [own] affairs.” For this reason, although Yao was praised as “modeling Heaven,” he could not humble the lofty integrity of [Xu You from] north of the Ying (who lived unencumbered in the mountains). And while King Wu was “utterly praiseworthy,” still the purity of the [Lords of] Guzhu forever remains intact (referring to Bo Yi and Shu Qi, who starved to death in the mountains rather than compromise their principles).

From these examples on down, the influential current became increasingly prevalent. The path of prolonged departure has never varied, yet the tactics of those inspired to action are not single in kind. Some lived in seclusion, seeking to maintain their resolve. Some turned and fled to keep their inner principles intact. Some sought personal tranquility, thereby repressing their impatience. Some removed themselves from danger in pursuit of security. Some denied themselves in the profane world and thereby stirred their mettle. Some condemned worldly things, thereby arousing their purity.

Nevertheless, in observing the way they gladly dwelt among the crosshatched cultivated field-lands, or went worn and haggard out by the rivers and seas, must it necessarily be that they sought intimacy with fish and birds, and found pleasure in forests and plants? It might also be said that it simply was where their innate nature led them. Thus, a court appointee who had suffered disgrace, though repeatedly degraded would not depart from his state (referring to Liuxia Hui, a staunchly ethical man praised by Confucius), whereas one whose moral integrity would bring him to tread out on the sea could not be swayed by a ruler of a thousand-chariot state (referring to, Lu Zhonglian, another paragon of morality lauded by Confucius). Even were one to try to convert or change their chosen course, one simply would be unable to affect them.

Although so obstinate they might be classed along with the one who would sell his name (only for the right price, referring to Confucius, in Analects 9.12), nevertheless, cicada-like they could cast off their slough amid the clamor and dust, and go off alone beyond the confines of the world. How different are they from those who would bedizen themselves with knowledge and craft in order to chase after fleeting gain! Xun Qing (i.e., Xun Zi) had a saying: “With will and purpose refined, one can be haughty before wealth and nobility; with the [proper] Way and justice exalted, one can slight kings and dukes.”

When the Han ruling house weakened in the middle of its rule and Wang Mang usurped the throne, the pent-up righteous indignation of the scholar-officials was brought to the extreme. At that time, those who rent their official caps and destroyed their ceremonial headgear, who went hand in hand bolstering each other, and who abandoned him, seem incalculable in number. Yang Xiong (53 B.C.E.—8 C.E.) said, “When the wild goose flies in the distant heights, how could the archer catch it there?” This bespeaks their distant removal from harm.

Emperor Guangwu treated with respect “Remote Ones,” seeking them out as if in fear of losing them. Plumed banners, bundled silk, and carriages with reed-padded wheels—the accouterments of official summons—passed one another among the cliffs. Those such as Xue Fang and Pang Meng were invited to court yet declined to go, while Yan Guang, Zhou Dang, and Wang Ba went but were not to be humbled. Everyone in all directions acquiesced [to Guangwu’s rule], and men of conviction cherished his humaneness. He most certainly was one who befit the dictum “he called to office those who had retired into obscurity, so that throughout the kingdom the hearts of the people turned toward him” (referring to King Wu of Zhou, from Analects 20.1).

Emperor Suzong likewise was deferential to Zhengjun and summoned to audience Gao Feng, whereby they fulfilled their resolve. But after that time the virtue of the emperors gradually declined, and the perverse and wicked [eunuchs] dominated the court. The gentlemen who remained at home [and did not serve) stolidly upheld their integrity, ashamed to be ranked and associated with the ministers and highest officials. When it reached the point where their indignation was so roused that they paid no regard to consequence, many became extremists (literally “lost their moderate course of action”). Herein by and large I have recorded (accounts of) those who severed ties with the dusty world never to return, equals, of the “Ones Who Took Action”(zuo zhe), arranging them in this section.

[The “Encomium” goes:]

By rivers and seas they went obscured, forgotten;

In mountains and forests they went off forever.
They ranged their spirit afar on distant winds;

They freed their feelings beyond the clouds.
Their Way drew near to Vacuity and Wholeness;

Their deeds turned away from taint and perversion.

—AB

  1. from Mair, Victor H., Nancy Shatzman Steinhardt, and Paul Rakita Goldin. Hawaii Reader In Traditional Chinese Culture. University of Hawaii Press, 2004. []

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