Following a philosophy of life is not only a matter of choice, but also a matter of personal conviction. Not uncommonly, a person might be following a certain system of beliefs without knowing it has a name or that it is even regarded as a philosophy in its own right. However, it is still a matter of principles and choices made through life, and one can live under them and learn that said set of principles had a certain name years after one learns it.
It never occurred to me that the set of principles I have always followed was one developed in the ancient China thousands of years ago. Although today´s intellectual environment is saturated with western philosophies and values, I found out that my own preferences and values reflected those of Confucianism. I had never thought of it, but as I started learning about this body of philosophy in class, I slowly became aware of my own actions and choices, and discovered a lot about myself.
Scholars say Confucius lived from 551 to 479 B.C.E. , and his teachings were very influential during the times of the Zhou Dinasty . During his life Confucius, whose name was K'ung-fu-tzu, worked close to governmental figures and institutions, and had many disciples. He preferred to teach by example rather than coercion and was considered the archetype of a gentleman of his day and the times to come.
As mentioned, I have discovered many traits of Confucian philosophy embedded in my own principles and choices. For instance, I have always found preferable to act instead of telling others what they must do. I believe that doing something effectively and showing the usefulness of my actions is the best way to show others how things must be done. I have seen that people follow those who do, those that lead by example.
I don´t particularly believe in social classes, but I believe that everyone must follow their social roles if they want to contribute to order and peace. I have found many ways to do so. If I´m talking with my parents I must remember I´m their child and behave accordingly, always respecting them and knowing my position at all times. But while spending time with the younger, it is important to avoid boasting about oneself. It is wise to remain humble and kind with those who might feel they owe us respect. I believe this practice is very similar to the golden rule found not only in Confucianism, but also in other philosophical and religious systems around the world.
In matters of responsibilities, I always take pride of those that are mine. I believe there is a proper way to comply with our obligations, and learning it teaches us discipline and self-restraint. This shows my parents, and will show my superiors, that I respect and honor them. This also shows my peers that I am worthy of respect as well, and others might follow my example.
One important thing to consider is politeness, but it can only be grasped by knowing customs and ceremonies that honor the traditions and elders. It is perfectly correct to like modern music and to have a good time being a free young teenager in this day and age, but learning how to properly treat the elderly and important people during a wedding or a funeral, can make all the difference between a self-centered immature child, and a respectful, altruistic and honorable youth that knows his place.
These were my own choices, but I feel that I understand them more now that I have learned about Confucius and his teachings. It has helped me see where my own principles might take me in the future.
Jeffrey, Riegel. "Confucius." 21 June 2013. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 11 March 2014.
John, Tucker. "Japanese Confucian Philosophy." 21 September 2013. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 11 March 2014.