Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Happiness According to Mencius

From the Chinese Classics, a columnist, writing for the Catholic Times,  takes the words of Mencius as her topic. The three joys of a virtuous person: to have long-living parents, and siblings without problems; to look up at the heavens and at others without shame; and to teach those who have talent.

Mencius makes us aware that he does not include the king in his list of three joys, probably scolding the king for not spending more time in trying to live virtuously instead of always being at war.  

The first joy, to have long-living parents and children living in harmony, is usually seen in families when love for one another is deeply felt and expressed, each one helping the other and showing concern for their parents. But this joy is a gift that we can't completely control; there are many families where this harmony is missing. Certainly, a great suffering for parents occurs when the children do not get along-- a lack of filial piety.  There is little that can break the heart of parents like the trouble between children. Children should remember, when something comes between them, that the one who suffers most will be the parents.

The second joy, to live in a way that does not bring shame on us, is within our control.  Living authentically and letting our conscience be our guide will guarantee that we will have no regrets when we look back on our life.
The third joy is truly a joy but is one that must be qualified in someway at least for a Christian. There are few  geniuses or  talented persons, we  have a chance to teach. Teaching topics that are objective, that have a right and wrong answer makes it easy on the teacher and gives joy when the students  learn the  process and have a eureka moment.  Many subjects are not of that type and the joy may take longer to achieve but the teacher's expectations make the teaching enjoyable even though  we are not dealing with geniuses.
 Our Lord's teaching can show us how to deal with persons who were far from persons of talent. He spent three years with his apostles in a close personal relationship. They were slow learners and disappointed him in many ways.  However, we can say that Jesus had great expectations of what they could  become. And this should also be our expectation when teaching--that there will be a change in those we teach.

Even when dealing with those who are among the most difficult to teach, the mentally handicapped, our expectation of change not only brings joy to us who teach but also energize those we teach to make the change we believe they can make. Teaching, when done well, becomes a discovery of the potential that lies within all of us--each of us is a possible prodigy.

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