Any one who has relatives loved ones and friends would feel sadness and grief when one of them passes away either because of old age, illnesses or accidents. The grief could be greater if the deceased had been murdered or unintentionally killed. Perhaps the greatest grief of all (to the Chinese) is when a ‘white hair’ person (parent) has to send off a ‘black hair’ person (child). Notwithstanding we accept the fact that every human being whether they are healthy or ill will have to ‘go’ eventually. It is just too difficult to overcome the loss of a loved one especially one too young to die.
Our national newspapers for the past few days have headlined the death of a young boy aged seven and the grief of his parents and siblings at his funeral. The boy was kidnapped, killed and his body stuffed in a travel bag found floating in a river. The kidnapper turned out to be a male relative whom the boy’s father helped from time to time with money. The kidnap and murder of the child occurred a few weeks after his father refused to give more money to the unemployed relative.
In such events that bring deep sorrow, kind words and acts can only lessen the pain for a moment. Heartaches take time to heal.
While Zhuangzi did not show much emotion on the death of his wife, he beat his drum and was philosophical about the event of her passing. Confucius on the other hand could not contained his grief on hearing of the death of Yen Hui, his favorite student. He exclaimed: ‘Alas! Heaven is destroying me! Heaven is destroying me!’
You see, notwithstanding their high level of cultivation, Sages are humans like us and have emotions too. Dealing with sorrow and other human emotions, the ancients have this to say:
While there are no stirrings of pleasure, anger, sorrow, or joy, the mind may be said to be in the state of Equilibrium. When those feelings have been stirred, and they act in their due degree, there ensues what may be called the state of Harmony. This Equilibrium is the great root from which grow all the human actings in the world, and this Harmony is the universal path which they all should pursue.
Let the states of equilibrium and harmony exist in perfection, and a happy order will prevail throughout heaven and earth, and all things will be nourished and flourish.
[Doctrine of the Mean 1. 4 & 5]
In memory of Sam Crane's son, Aidan and the young boy, Ho Ping, aged seven.