一個不容易回答的問題 ~ A Difficult Question
September 28th was Confucius’s birthday. The President of Taiwan and I (and a few hundred other people) celebrated at a dawn ceremony at the Taipei Confucius Temple. More on that tomorrow, but today I’ve translated a tale from my textbook that I liked. I should print this and post it so it can wave at me in warning when I write.
A Difficult Question
While Confucius was touring the countries of China, he saw two children arguing on the side of the road. Since he was sitting inside his cart, he couldn’t make out what they were debating, but their faces were beet red, their voices were getting louder and louder, and they were on the verge of fighting each other. Confucius came down from his cart, stepped in front of them, and told them to break it up. He asked them, “What are you arguing about?”
One boy said, “Grandfather, who are you? You must know more than us, so please tell us who’s right!”
Confucius said, “I am Kong Qiu from Lu. Please tell me, what were you debating?”
The other boy said, “You must be Confucius. You can definitely settle our problem, because everybody says you’re the most educated man in the entire world.”
Confucius said, “Quickly, tell me what your problem is.”
One boy said, “I think the sun is closer to us at dawn and farther away from us at noon.”
The other boy said, “He’s wrong. I think the sun is farther away at dawn and closer at noon.”
Confucius said, “Each of you, please give me your reasons.”
The first boy said, “At dawn, the sun is as big and as round as a wheel, but at noon, it’s as small as a dish. When things are far away from us, they look small, but when they’re close to us, they look big. So the sun must be closer to us in the morning and farther away from us at noon.”
The other boy said, “He’s completely wrong. At sunrise, we feel cool, but at noon, we sweat. When you’re close to a fire, it feels hot, and when you’re far away, you don’t feel it. So I think the sun is closest to us at noon.”
The boys asked Confucius who was right.
Confucius seemed flummoxed. For a while, he didn’t know how to reply. Finally, he said, “I can’t tell you who is correct because I haven’t studied this question.”
The two boys thought, “If Confucius is the most learned man in the world, and he doesn’t know the answer, then how could we have been so sure that we did?”