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Sunday, August 21, 2022

18. Work on the Decayed



The Lines

Bottom. [6] The root causes of stagnation and decay extend back into the distant past. The habits that produce decline become well-established over time. But it is the nature of decay that it is unacceptable. Everyone recognizes it, even if only unconsciously they know that something is wrong. Therefore, the decay is not so well-entrenched that it cannot ever be corrected. But it must not be ignored. Only when one retains clearly in mind the idea of how things should be can the correction be made.

2. [9] Decline that arises out of inadequacy should not be condemned too severely. After all, a person should not be treated with contempt for something over which they have little control, something they could hardly help doing. The idea is not to execute judgment and make people feel guilty, but to improve the situation. And that is best done through kindness, encouragement, and every form of assistance that will enable those who have allowed things to decline to make them better. They must be shown the way, and helped to acquire the means to follow it.

3. [9] It often happens that, in pursuing the correction of long-standing mediocrity, a man pushes too hard. This naturally causes some unhappiness and even resistance. No one is perfect, not even the corrector of imperfections. But no great harm is done. It is better sometimes to push too hard than not hard enough. All will be forgiven when the situation is finally made better.

4. [6] Permitting mediocrity that is long-standing to continue cannot bode well. These things are difficult to correct, and it is always easier to let things slide and to continue with the same inadequate ways that have been used in the past. Everyone is used to the careless ways they have always worked with, and changes will require a major overhaul. If circumstances are such that increased responsibilities are bringing greater demands, while intrenched inadequacies are beginning to reveal how really bad things are, and then a person still is too weak or indifferent to change them, things will only go from bad to worse. This is a prescription for disaster.

5. [6] If a person lacks the ability to correct long-standing corruption, he should not just ignore the problem. Anything he does will be better than leaving everything as it is. He should solicit as many suggestions and as much help as he can find. Even if he cannot completely correct the situation, any improvement that he can bring about will be recognized and be to his credit.

Top. [9] Not every man need be a crusader or a reformer. Even a superior man, who is fully capable of correcting the decline he sees all about him and leading the way to reform, need not become involved if he chooses not to. But this does not mean that he should feel free to take the easy way out, sit back and criticize, and leave it to others to do the hard work of reform. As a man of superior dedication, it is not his option to do nothing. Rather, he should work on the refinement of his own character and aspire truly to be a sage, together with whatever dedicated activities such a path may require of him. This might well mean as much or more hard work than the job of the reformer. And this, too, has benefits for mankind.

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