JUNK SCIENCE: Confucius Say


JUNKSCIENCECARTOONCARROT_1_1.jpgBY ELIZABETH FIEND LIVING EDITOR “You peng zi yuan fang lai, bu yi yue hu?” “Is it not delightful to have friends coming from distant quarters?” To the thunderous beat of 2,008 Xia Dynasty drums, 2,008 voices chanted this classic greeting from Confucius in welcoming the 100,000 spectators to the opening of the Summer Olympics in Beijing. The games are now well underway, and it’s impossible to ignore thinking about China, especially after that dazzling opening ceremony. Are the Chinese scary task masters, or did that display show the wonders of a large group of people working together in harmony? It’s hard to decide from our vantage point. But one thing’s for sure, China is on the world stage, straight and center, and its population of 1.3 billion, one out of every five people in the world, is going to influence everything on earth – for the good and for the bad.

Not only big, China is one old country, which is also hard for us Americans to wrap our heads around. It has aconfuc.jpg history, philosophy and culture that has had continuity for over 4,000 years not like the United States that has only a few hundred years of history under its belt. But unlike its also-communist neighbor Russia, mostly we’ve ignored China except as a source for cheap goods. Well, that’s going to change no matter what we think about it. This sleeping behemoth has woken up for real. Since the Beats of the 1950s brought it to our attention hip Americans have had a love affair with another export from Asia, Buddhism. The Baby Boomers carried this affection with them and integrated aspects of Buddhism into New Age philosophy. The Buddhist philosophy is often about looking inwards; if each person perfected themselves to the highest state of consciousness the world could not help but to be a better place. How true, but how impractical and unattainable.

I think that because of this fascination with Buddhism we have totally overlooked one of his contemporaries, the amazing Chinese philosopher Confucius. Confucius (551-479 BCE) and Buddha (566-480 BCE) may have desired the same outcome from their systems of belief, but the paths they suggest are quite different. While Buddha was looking inward for enlightenment, Confucius recommended looking outward. I’ve always been into Confucius because of the emphasis he placed on doing the common good, community service and the importance of good manners, on the whole treating people with empathy and respect. Confucius coined the phrase “Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself,” which is the same sentiment as the Biblical Golden Rule, except Confucius said it way first. He taught that pursuing self-interest isn’t necessarily bad, but the more righteous person bases his life’s journey on trying to enhance the greater good. It’s pretty surprising that Communist China rejected this guy. Confucius also believed that there is no Creator God who’s going to set things right; it’s up to us humans, as stalwarts of the land to make sure the earth and her inhabitants are treated properly. Yeah, I can dig that too. He thought people should think for themselves, that study and understanding created skilled judgment, which was better than the knowledge of legal rules. Amen to that. Hopefully China’s Olympic “coming-out party” will bring some attention to the ideals and philosophies of Confucianism. MORE

ABOUT THIS COLUMN: At no time in recorded history have we possessed so much knowledge about health and nutrition, or had such vast and effective means for disseminating that knowledge. Yet for all that, we essentially live in a high-tech Dark Age, with most of the global population ignorant or confused about the basic facts of their own biology. How did this happen? Well, that alone is a whole six-part miniseries, and this ain’t the Discovery Channel. Suffice to say that the bottom line of many a multi-national corporation depends on that ignorance, and vast sums of money are expended to keep us fat, dumb and happy. But mostly fat. There was a time when newspapers saw it as their duty to truth squad the debates over health, science and the environment, but that’s a luxury most papers can no longer afford — not when there are gossip columnists to be hired! To help remedy this violation of the public’s right to know, Phawker publishes the JUNK SCIENCE column by Elizabeth Fiend, beloved host of the BiG TeA PaRtY. Every week, Miss Fiend connects the dots to reveal a constellation of scientific facts that have been hiding in plain sight, scattered across the cold, vast reaches of the Internet. With a background in punk rock and underground comics, and a long career as a library researcher, Miss Fiend knows how scientific facts become diluted by corporate-sponsored non-facts. Every week she separates the smoke from the mirrors. Why? Because she loves you, ya big dummy.


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