Sunday, January 20, 2008

Wang Yangming's Community Compact

Bill Cosby in his book "Come on People" offered no new ideas for helping communities struggling with poor education, drugs, and poverty. I have started studying Confucian community compacts to look for ideas to help struggling communities.

If an American community wanted to write a compact, the following text from Wang Yangming would be a great preamble.

"The responsibility for all this should be shared by...government officials and all of you, old and young.

Alas! Nothing can be done to change what has already gone by, but something can still be done in the future. Therefore a community compact is now specially prepared to unite and harmonize all of you. From now on, all of you who enter into this compact should be filial to your parents and respectful to your elders, teach your children, live in harmony with your fellow villagers, help one another when there is death in the family and assist one another in times of difficulty, encourage one another to do good and warn one another not to do evil, stop litigations and rivalry, cultivate faithfulness and promote harmony, and be sure to be good citizens so that together you may establish the custom of humanity and kindness....

All of you, both old and young, do not remember the former evil deeds of the new citizens and ignore their good deeds. As long as they have a single thought to do good, they are already good people. Do not be proud that you are good citizens and neglect to cultivate your personal life. As long as you have a single thought to do evil, you are already evil people. Whether people are good or evil depends on a single instant of thought. You should think over my words carefully. Don't forget...."

Wang Yangming, 1472-1529

This is a brilliant exposition of the right attitude to have going into a community compact. I am too humbled by Wang's brilliance to try to add anything to what he said. I will only mention American historical context: during his lifetime Columbus discovered the New World (1492) and the Jamestown colony was started in Virginia (1508).


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