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What Actually DID Confucius Say?

A few weeks ago, I embarked on what I’m calling “The Journey of Elimination,” a personal, year-long effort to reduce and unclutter. To put it simply, I’ve decided to choose one or more things each day that I no longer need and eliminate them from my life by either donating them, selling them, giving them to someone I know who might need or want them, recycling them or, as a last resort, throwing them away.

So far, I’m doing well, having purged a variety of things, from coffee mugs and “junk drawer” items, to clothing, shoes and even a bike carrier that attaches to a trailer hitch (something none of our vehicles have, so it is no longer operational in our current configuration).

I suspect as time goes on, it will get increasingly difficult to find items of significance, but the point of it all is to – as mentioned earlier – reduce, unclutter and simplify my daily life.

Now, the flip side of this effort is to avoid accumulating new stuff. Moving forward, I’m committed to asking myself if what I’m about to buy or otherwise acquire is necessary or something I truly want. If not, then it’s probably not worth bringing into my home or my life.

Sounds therapeutic, doesn’t it? Frankly, it has been, and I’m hoping it remains so in the coming

weeks and months. That said, let me tell you about something I bought last week that I really like. It’s a coaster with a drawing of Confucius on it, or at least, a reasonable facsimile of him, though I’ve never seen him, so how would I know?

Last week, while killing time on the road, I found myself in a gift shop, the type of place I rarely inhabit for reasons I won’t explore here. But there I was, browsing with the rest of the “time-killing” crowd, most of whom were there to buy t-shirts with a local theme, cheap jewelry or a novelty hat. (This place had a lot of t-shirts and hats.)

One rack was nothing but coasters, and I spent a few minutes scanning them because I 1) had nothing else to do and 2) had little to no interest in the other items in the store. Most of the sayings on the coasters were mildly clever, but not enough that I can remember any of them. A lot of them had to do with coffee or wine and the critical role these beverages play in one’s life.

After a couple minutes, one caught my eye, and after reading it, I knew I had to have it. Next to a drawing of the noted philosopher, it simply read: “I never said all that shit.” – Confucius.

Immediately, I knew this item passed the “Journey of Elimination” test; something I needed to add back into the Haznaw collection of things. It was useful (if you’ve ever seen me handle a cup of coffee, or any beverage for that matter, you know what I mean), it was funny and it didn’t mess with the overall mission of the “Journey,” which is to reduce, unclutter and simplify.

OK, technically, it violated the “reduction clause” of the contract, but barely. I mean, it’s a coaster,

right? And besides, its damage-prevention value is high, much higher than its $3.99 price tag, or the space it occupies. So, I deemed it acceptable, willingly laid down my cash for it, and upon returning home, put it to work, where I’m happy to say it is currently supporting my coffee, which is housed in one of my other prized possessions, a mug featuring Charlie Brown (my favorite cartoon character and someone I actually resemble), with the simple phrase, “Good grief.” (In order to keep that mug, I had to purge others, but as someone – not Confucius – once said, “Sacrifices had to be made.”)

The funny thing is, every time I look at that coaster, and that made-up quote, I can’t help but thinking, “What if Confucius really didn’t say all that shit?” It was, after all, 2,500 years ago, long before folks where tweeting and posting to Instagram. “And, even if he did say a bunch of shit -- which I have no doubt he did,” I continued to think, “how accurate is the shit we’ve read to what he actually wrote or said? And, if he were around today, and heard and read a bunch of those famous quips and quotes we’ve attributed to him, is it possible he’d say exactly what’s on my cool, funny new coaster?”

Makes you think, doesn’t it? And isn’t that just what Confucius wanted? And, now I’m questioning whether what I’m doing is uncluttering or decluttering, or maybe a combination of both, depending on what I’m eliminating, how I’m doing it and from where.

Good grief, this is getting too deep for me. Maybe Confucius would know. If only he were here to discuss it.

© 2020 David R. Haznaw

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