Ask you about Singapore’s experience with Suzhou. You called it a chastening experience in your memoirs. You would reflect on that of the attempt to transfer Singapore’s experience to a very different culture and how would you have done differently, or would you even consider?
You Don’t Need to Know It All
As to methods, there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.
—RALPH WALDO EMERSON, ESSAYIST AND POET
One example that will strike almost any reader is the sense of mortality that pervades the work. Death is not to be feared, Marcus continually reminds himself. It is a natural process, part of the continual change that forms the world. At other points it is the ultimate consolation. “Soon you will be dead,” Marcus tells himself on a number of occasions, “and none of it will matter” (cf. 4.6, 7.22, 8.2). The emphasis on the vanity and worthlessness of earthly concerns is here linked to the more general idea of transience. All things change or pass away, perish and are forgotten. This is the burden of several of the thought exercises that Marcus sets himself: to think of the court of Augustus (8.31), of the age of Vespasian or Trajan (4.32), the great philosophers and thinkers of the past (6.47)—all now dust and ashes.
The Master said, “Those who are clever in their words and pretentious in their appearance, yet are humane, are few indeed.” [1.3]
Fan Chi asked about wisdom. The Master said, “Devote yourself to what must rightly be done for the people; respect spiritual beings, while keeping at a distance from them. This may be called wisdom.” He asked about humaneness. The Master said, “One who is humane first does what is difficult and only thereafter concerns himself with success. This may be called humaneness.” (6.20)