Manyu does not usually read my blog, but I asked her to read my November 14 entry about goals versus no goals to make sure I’d captured her opinions correctly. She said my blog was accurate as far as it went, but I’d failed to explain the rationale behind her thinking.

When I told her that I didn’t know what her rationale was, she quoted neo-Confucian philosopher Wang Yang-ming. She said Wang believed young people needed wise elders to help them identify and reach explicit goals. Without persistent mentors, children and young adults became lost and achieved less than they otherwise would. One task of parents, teachers, and civic leaders, according to Wang, was to fuel young people’s ambition, because “Without ambition, nothing can be accomplished in the world.”

A big difference between Manyu and me is that Manyu lives a consistent philosophy. She is Confucian to the core. I, while not without a personal philosophy, am a hodgepodge. I am more likely to explain myself with 1960s song lyrics than with a specific school of thought* – and if I ever tried quoting some neo-Aristotelian philosopher, I’d come across as pedantic. When Manyu cites Wang Yang-ming, it is just who she is.  It is also, to some extent, who a fifth of the world’s population is. 

Yesterday I tracked down an English translation of Wang Yang-ming’s letters. I don’t expect them to help me clarify my own jumbled thoughts on life, but they could help me understand my wife.

* As I wrote this blog, both philosophy and early Beatles came to mind.  From Thoreau, “If I have any experience which I think valuable, I am sure to reflect that this my Mentors said nothing about,” and from Lennon,“Doesn’t have a point of view. Knows not where he’s going to. Isn’t he a bit like you and me?”

Steven Simpson