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How to set yourself free with ritual

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Ritual is not about stale traditionalism

When I first read Confucius, I was disappointed. He seemed like a stick-in-the-mud, obsessed with enforcing the status quo. ‘As for music,’ he grumped to his disciples, ‘listen only to Shao and Wu. Prohibit the tunes of Zheng.’

This was the great sage of ancient China, who wandered the country lecturing disciples and rulers on how to live? Maybe his approach worked 2,500 years ago. But for me, in the 21st century? I preferred living freely like the iconoclastic Daoist sages who mocked Confucius.

Central to Confucius’s teachings was submission to li (禮), typically translated as ‘ritual’. I wrote it off as more stale traditionalism. But then, while preparing a course on classical Chinese thought, I re-read the foundational collection of Confucius’s teachings known as the Analects.

It was a revelation. Cherrypicked passages such as the one about music were deeply misleading. Li wasn’t about fastidiously obeying fusty old rules.

No, this was a different kind of ritual. My default understanding of the word had misled me. What Confucius taught was life-as-ritual, the transformation of everyday actions into sacred activity. ‘When we say “the rites, the rites”, are we speaking merely of jade and silk?’ he asks rhetorically. The answer is no. Confucian ritual goes beyond formalized activities that require the proper use of jade and silk. Ritual is – or can be – part of all human activity. It governs greetings and conservations. It’s how you harmonize your life with the rhythms of the world. And if you take ritual seriously, submit to it, and practice it, then transforming your life for the better will go from difficult to effortless.

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https://epsilon.aeon.co/images/3e345f10-9659-43d0-8770-f0509a1b079e/900x900.jpgPhoto by David Gray/Reuters

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Click the link below for the article:

https://psyche.co/guides/how-to-live-free-and-in-harmonious-ease-with-confucian-ritual?utm_source=pocket_discover

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