For Christmas, my sister sent me a signed copy of a book called The Philosopher Cat by a painter and writer called Kwong Kuen Shan, whom she met; my sister and she both live in Wales. It is a contemplative little book interspersing charming images of cats with thoughts and sayings, some anonymous, from the Chinese sages of ancient times.
From it I am beginning to discover the basics of this school of philosophy. I am learning that, according to such a way thinking, the qualities of the wise are as follows:
They do not compare themselves with other people.
They are tolerant.
They are not interested in the status of fame or wealth.
They are non-competitive, non-intimidating, not easily provoked, not vindictive.
They are not greedy.
They do not rush, but are cautious in their actions.
They are modest, kind, frugal and honest.
They keep calm, not dwelling on anxieties or the attempt to achieve a certain goal.
They are pensive and observant.
They value their solitude.
They live a tranquil life, immersing themselves in nature (the observation of animals, plants, landscapes and the sky).
They accept their mortality and the transience of things, appreciating what's here and now.
My husband, who is an architypal westerner, says this is a philosophy for old men: "really old men."
This month I have also read a novel––The Sound of the Mountain––by the Nobel prizewinner, Yasunari Kawabata, a Japanese writer. Here is a link to the speech he made when accepting his prize for Literature in 1968. It seems to echo much of the above; the novel I read is the story of a reserved but affectionate, long-suffering businessman trying to come to terms with aging, who finds great comfort in his encounters with flowers, trees and birds ... and poetry. It is not a soft book, however, including frequent references to drunkenness, infidelities, abortion and suicide. The main character has to come to terms with all that, too.