Thursday, July 30, 2009

Never too old

For André:

The scholar Liu Xiang (劉向, 79-8 BCE) told the following story in his book Shuo Yuan (說苑, A Garden of Stories):

Duke Ping of Jin [1] asked Shi Guang,[2] "I am seventy. I want to study but I am afraid that the sun is already setting." Shi Guang replied, "Why not light a candle?" Duke Ping said, "How can a subject poke fun at his Lord?" Shi Guang responded, "Would I, a blind servant, dare poke fun at my Lord? I have heard that love of learning in youth is like the rising sun; love of learning in the prime of life is like the radiance of the of the sun at noon; and love of learning in old age is like the light of a candle. If you can have a lit candle, why would you wander in the dark?"[3] Duke Ping said, "Excellent!"

晉平公問於師曠曰:「吾年七十,欲學恐已暮矣。」師曠曰:「何不炳燭乎?」平公曰:「安有為人臣而戲其君乎?」師曠曰:「盲臣安敢戲其君乎? 臣聞之,少而好學如日出之陽,壯而好學如日中之光,老而好學如炳燭之明。 炳燭之明,孰與昧行乎?」平公曰:「善哉!」(《劉向.說苑》)

[1] Duke Ping of Jin reigned from 557 to 532 BCE.

[2] According to the 國語辭典, Shi Guang was a musician during the Spring and Autumn period (722 BCE-421 BCE).

[3] Kirill Sereda pointed out to me that 孰與 ... 乎 means "then, why on earth would you / one..." Thanks Kirill! Every time we correspond, it's a case of 拋磚引玉: I throw bricks and you return jade.