Confucius Bumper-Sticker Style

George Orwell (2003) said the “greatest enemy of clear language” (p. 170) is insincerity. I agree. I can’t seem to write my philosophy essay. The only thing I am sincere about is putting it off. I’ve learned that being philosophical when you are so inclined and studying philosophy are two different things. If that’s the only thing I take from this class, then I’ve learned enough.

I need to write my essay. I think this as I drive home.

“So Confucius liked to name things, but in Taoism, language didn’t capture enough,” I say, hoping that hearing my thoughts aloud will breed more of them. “And what did language mean to Socrates?” I almost run a stop sign. I go home contemplating what an accident means to my insurance company.

I have a rush of understanding over breakfast the next day as I read my Taoism text. I begin to feel very optimistic that I will get this essay done early. I have visions of going outside after having paid the ransom to my computer. I quickly write down my ideas before they are lost forever.

With vigour, I prepare to write eight to ten pages on Confucius and Chuang Tzu. I sit at my computer. I thumb through the pages of my Study Guide. I’ve got two sentences and a blinking cursor. I start to take offense at each blink of the smug, little cursor.

I’m waiting for the pot of rice simmering on my stove to overflow as I talk to my Dad on the phone. I’ve called a friend back, passed judgment on her ex-boyfriend and polished off the reading I needed to do for another class. As soon as I get off the phone and have dinner, I’m going to lock myself in and write my philosophy essay. Right now, my Dad is asking me about working out. I’m so happy he’s trying to take care of himself that I don’t have the heart to cut him short.

It’s 11:30 p.m. on Wednesday night. I’ve been reading and re-reading the Study Guide write-up on Taoism. I’m making notes on the differences between Confucius and Chuang Tzu (For someone who didn’t feel like language had much use, Chuang Tzu sure had a lot to say). I’ve made an outline of my essay. I haven’t made an outline since high school! The worst part is that it is helping and I’ll probably start doing outlines for all of my papers now. The house is quiet. I fold up my books and place them on the kitchen table, so I won’t be able to walk past them tomorrow without feeling guilty.

George Orwell made a good point about insincerity, but Confucius says, “it is not the hide that counts” (Waley, 1989, p. 98). Confucius isn’t as goal-oriented as student-life demands me to be. But I understand now that philosophy is more about the process than the outcome. It’s the journey, not the destination. And now I wonder how Confucius would feel about me chalking up his wisdom to a bumper sticker. Or, more importantly, how my instructor would feel. Oh yeah, that essay:

Orwell, G. (2003). Politics and the English Language. In G. Goshgarian (Ed.), Exploring Language (pp. 572-581). 10th edition. Pearson Longman.
Waley, A. (1989). The Analects of Confucius. Reissue edition. New York: Vintage Books.

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