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Ox Hill

By Mencius

Ox Hill was once fair with trees; but being on the outskirts of a big town, it was stricken by axe and bill, and could it remain fair? Begotten by day and night, watered by rain and dew, it cannot be that no buds or shoots grow; but cows and sheep come too and munch them - and there it is, scoured clean! Seeing it scoured clean, men think it never was wooded. But was the nature of the hill such?

And can a heart for love and right be wanting in man? The way he loses his true heart is like the way of the axes and bills among the trees. Stricken day after day, can the heart remain fair? Begotten by day and night, in the breath of peaceful dawn, his loves and hates are akin to other men’s. But they are weak, and his doings in the dawn and in the daytime fetter and quell them. Fettered again and again, the breath of night is too little to keep them alive, he is not far from a bird or beast. Seeing him a bird or beast, men think he never had talents. But was the soul of man such?

For there is nothing that does not grow if it gets food, and nothing that does not dwindle if it misses its food. When Confucius said, “Hold fast, and ye shall keep it; let go, and it is gone; it comes and goes untimed; none knows its home,” he spake only of the heart.

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Tim Surtell
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