Section EIGHT - WEBBED TOES
Two TOES WEBBED TOGETHER, a sixth finger forking off ‑ these come from the inborn nature but are excretions as far as Virtue is concerned.1 Swelling tumors and protruding wens ‑ these come from the body but are excretions as far as the inborn nature is concerned. Men overnice in the ways of benevolence and righteousness try to put these into practice, even to line them up with the five vital organs! 2
This is not the right approach to the Way and its Virtue. Therefore he who has two toes webbed together has grown a flap of useless flesh; he who has a sixth finger forking out of his hand has sprouted a useless digit; and he who imposes overnice ways, webs and forked fingers, upon the original form of the five vital organs will become deluded and perverse in the practice of benevolence and righteousness and overnice in the use of his hearing and sight. Thus he who is web‑toed in eyesight will be confused by the five colors, bewitched by patterns and designs, by the dazzling hues of blue and yellow, of embroidery and brocade ‑ am I wrong? So we have Li Chu.3
He who is overnice in hearing will be confused by the five notes, bewitched by the six tones, by the sounds of metal and stone, strings and woodwinds, the huang‑chung and ta‑lu pitch pipes ‑ am I wrong? So we have Music Master K'uang.4 He who is fork‑fingered with benevolence will tear out the Virtue given him and stifle his inborn nature in order to seize fame and reputation, leading the world on with pipe and drum in the service of an unattainable ideal ‑ am I wrong? So we have Tseng and Shih.5 He who is web‑toed in argumentation will pile up bricks, knot the plumb line, apply the curve,6 letting his mind wander in the realm of "hard" and "white," "likeness" and "difference," huffing and puffing away, lauding his useless words ‑ am I wrong? So we have Yang and Mo.' All these men walk a way that is overnice, web‑toed, wide of the mark, fork‑fingered, not that which is the True Rightness of the world.
He who holds to True Rightness8 does not lose the original form of his inborn nature. So for him joined things are not webbed toes, things forking off are not superfluous fingers, the long is never too much, the short is never too little.9 The duck's legs are short, but to stretch them out would worry him; the crane's legs are long, but to cut them down would make him sad. What is long by nature needs no cutting off; what is short by nature needs no stretching. That would be no way to get rid of worry. I wonder, then, if benevolence and righteousness are part of man's true form? Those benevolent men‑how much worrying they do!
The man with two toes webbed together would weep if he tried to tear them apart; the man with a sixth finger on his hand would howl if he tried to gnaw it off. Of these two, one has more than the usual number, the other has less, but in worrying about it they are identical. Nowadays the benevolent men of the age lift up weary eyes,10 worrying over the ills of the world, while the men of no benevolence tear apart the original form of their inborn nature in their greed for eminence and wealth. Therefore I wonder if benevolence and righteousness are really part of man's true form? From the Three Dynasties on down,11 what a lot of fuss and hubbub they have made in the world!
If we must use curve and plumb line, compass and square to make something right, this means cutting away its inborn nature; if we must use cords and knots, glue and lacquer to make something firm, this means violating its natural Virtue. So the crouchings and bendings of rites and music, the smiles and beaming looks of benevolence and righteousness, which are intended to comfort the hearts of the world, in fact destroy their constant naturalness.
For in the world there can be constant naturalness. Where there is constant naturalness, things are arced not by the use of the curve, straight not by the use of the plumb line, rounded not by compasses, squared not by T squares, joined not by glue and lacquer, bound not by ropes and lines. Then all things in the world, simple and compliant, live and never know how they happen to live; all things, rude and unwitting,12 get what they need and never know how they happen to get it. Past and present it has been the same; nothing can do injury to this [principle]. Why then come with benevolence and righteousness, that tangle and train of glue and lacquer, ropes and lines, and try to wander in the realm of the Way and its Virtue? You will only confuse the world!
A little confusion can alter the sense of direction; a great confusion can alter the inborn nature. How do I know this is so? Ever since that man of the Yu clan13 began preaching benevolence and righteousness and stirring up the world, all the men in the world have dashed headlong for benevolence and righteousness. This is because benevolence and righteousness have altered their inborn nature, is it not?
Let me try explaining what I mean. From the Three Dynasties on down, everyone in the world has altered his inborn nature because of some [external] thing. The petty man? ‑ he will risk death for the sake of profit. The knight? ‑ will risk it for the sake of fame. The high official? ‑ he will risk it for family; the sage? ‑ he will risk it for the world. All these various men go about the business in a different way, and are tagged differently when it comes to fame and reputation; but in blighting their inborn nature and risking their lives for something they are the same.
The slave boy and the slave girl were out together herding their sheep, and both of them lost their flocks. Ask the slave boy how it happened: well, he had a bundle of writing slips and was reading a book.14 Ask the slave girl how it happened: well, she was playing a game of toss‑and‑wait‑your‑turn. They went about the business in different ways, but in losing their sheep they were equal. Po Yi died for reputation at the foot of Shou‑yang mountain; Robber Chih died for gain on top of Eastern Mound. 15 The two of them died different deaths, but in destroying their lives and blighting their inborn nature they were equal. Why then must we say that Po Yi was right and Robber Chih wrong?
Everyone in the world risks his life for something. If he risks it for benevolence and righteousness, then custom names him a gentleman; if he risks it for goods and wealth, then custom names him a petty man. The risking is the same, and yet we have a gentleman here, a petty man there. In destroying their lives and blighting their inborn nature, Robber Chih and Po Yi were two of a kind. How then can we pick out the gentleman from the petty man in such a case?
He who applies his nature to benevolence and righteousness may go as far with it as Tseng and Shih, but I would not call him an expert. He who applies his nature to the five flavors may go as far with it as Yu Erh,16 but I would not call him an expert. He who applies his nature to the five notes may go as far with it as Music Master K'uang, but I would not call this good hearing. He who applies his nature to the five colors may go as far with it as Li Chu, but I would not call this good eyesight. My definition of expertness has nothing to do with benevolence and righteousness; it means being expert in regard to your Virtue, that is all. My definition of expertness has nothing to do with benevolence or righteousness ;17 it means following the true form of your inborn nature, that is all. When I speak of good hearing, I do not mean listening to others; I mean simply listening to yourself. When I speak of good eyesight, I do not mean looking at others; I mean simply looking at yourself. He who does not look at himself but looks at others, who does not get hold of himself but gets hold of others, is getting what other men have got and failing to get what he himself has got. He finds joy in what brings joy to other men, but finds no joy in what would bring joy to himself. And if he finds joy in what brings joy to other men, but finds no joy in what would bring joy to himself, then whether he is a Robber Chih or a Po Yi he is equally deluded and perverse. I have a sense of shame before the Way and its Virtue, and for that reason I do not venture to raise myself up in deeds of benevolence and righteousness, or to lower myself in deluded and perverse practices.