Chapter 5: There Can Be No Regret
When Lin Lei was nearly a hundred, he put on his fur coat in the middle of spring, and went to pick up the grains dropped by the reapers, singing as he made his way through the fields.
Confucius, who was on a journey to Wei, saw him in the distance. Turning to his disciples he said “That old man should be worth talking to. Someone should go and find out what he has to say.”
Tzu Kung asked to be the one to go. He met Lin Lei at the end of the embankment and, looking him in the face, sighed “Don’t you even feel any regret? Yet you pick up the grains singing as you go.”
Lin Lei neither halted his step nor paused his song. Tzu Kung went on pressing him until he looked up and answered, “What have I to regret?”
“A child, you never learned how to behave;
A man, you never strove to make your mark.
No wife nor son in your old age,
And the time of your death is near.”
“Master what happiness have you had that you should sing as you walk picking up the grains?”
“The reason for my happiness all men share,” said Lin Lei smiling, “but instead, they worry over them. It is because I took no pains learning to behave when I was young, and never strove to make my mark when I grew up that I have been able to live so long. It is because I have no wife and sons in my old age and the time of my death is near that I can be so happy.”
“It is human to want long life, and hate death - why should you be happy to die?”
“Death is a return to where we set out from when we were born. So how do I know that when I die here I shall not be born somewhere else? How do I know that life and death are not as good as each other? How do I know that it is not a delusion to crave anxiously for life? How do I know that present death would not be better than my past life?”
Tzu Kung listened but did not understand his meaning. He returned and told Confucius.
“I knew he would be worth talking to” said Confucius “and so he is, but he is a man who has found it, yet not found all of it”
Tao is not rational. It is not anti-rational either. It is super-rational. Life is more than reason. Life is more than can be understood by the mind. Life has to give you more than you can learn. It is bigger than your capacity of learning. It is bigger than you can ever know, but it can be felt. Tao is intuitive. Tao is more total. When you approach life through the head, and only through the head, it is a part approach; misunderstanding is bound to be there. A man who is trying to figure it out is bound to fall into a tremendous trap and will not be able to come out of it easily. Once you start intellectualizing about life, you start going astray. Life has to be lived. Life has to be lived existentially and not intellectually. Intellect is not a bridge, but a barrier.