Reading Notebook #20: Humanness Is Superior to Righteousness

The Way of Zen

From The Way of Zen by Alan Watts:

It was a basic Confucian principle that “it is man who makes truth great, not truth which makes man great.” For this reason, “humanness” or “human-heartedness” was always felt to be superior to “righteousness,” since man himself is greater than any idea which he may invent. There are times when men’s passions are much more trustworthy than their principles. Since opposed principles, or ideologies, are irreconcilable, wars fought over principle will be wars of mutual annihilation. But wars fought for simple greed will be far less destructive, because the aggressor will be careful not to destroy what he is fighting to capture. Reasonable—that is, human—men will always be capable of compromise, but men who have dehumanized themselves by becoming the blind worshipers of an idea or an ideal are fanatics whose devotion to abstractions makes them the enemies of life.

Posted in Life Philosophy, Reading.

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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Although I am now just a boring old agnostic, I used to consider myself a Buddhist and still love Alan Watts, especially his “The Book.” But I don’t remember this quote from my teenage days of reading Watts. Thanks for sharing.

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