Words on the process of cutivation

Even though this will email out Tuesday afternoon, I'm sitting here writing this late Monday evening just after 11pm my time. You'll all have to forgive me this diversion into philosophy, so for those readers expecting more immediately practical medical advice, you can skip this post. Monday nights I typically have my Chinese language tutoring session, and over the last few months I've been reading (slowly) through the Analects of Confucius in the original classical Chinese. It's not an easy task, but one that is very interesting, trying to step into the mind of a profound philosopher who lived over two thousand years ago. Here's a line we did tonight that I really liked...

子語魯大師樂,曰:“樂其可知也:始作,翕如也;從之,純如也,皦如也, 繹如也,以成.”

I don't feel qualified yet to adequately translate Confucius into elegant English, so I'll give you Prof. Edward Slingerland's translation...

The Master [i.e., Confucius] was discussing music with the Grand Music Master of Lu. He said, "What can be known about music is this: when it first begins, it resounds with a confusing variety of notes, but as it unfolds, these notes are reconciled by means of harmony, brought into tension by means of counterpoint, and finally woven together into a seamless whole. It is in this way that music reaches perfection."

This of course is a metaphor (and a rather beautiful one) for the process of self cultivation. Chaotic at first, and then ending in Wu Wei perfection. But a lot of steps go between beginning to learn music and becoming a virtuoso, so we need to keep at it, but be patient. Constantly refining. The same is true for those of us who practice methods of mind-body cultivation such as Qigong or Taiji, or those of us who are physicians. In the end we are all just students along the Way, all at different places in the process of cultivating the self, or cultivating the medicine (which really is just another way we cultivate the self). We have to start somewhere, but with step by step diligent effort we eventually realize the harmony that Confucius describes.

I'm going outside to do my Taiji form again before bed, inspired by the Master from two thousand years ago.