Return to Classical Civilizations
——My New Year’s Wish
The “civilization” here refers not to the modern civilization, but to the classical civilizations, especially the civilization formed in the Axial Age. Isn’t modern civilization more “advanced” and “brilliant” than classical civilization? Why return to classical civilizations?
Classical civilizations originated from the beginning of humanity. When human beings waken up from barbarism, they lighted their eyes with wisdom, saw the causes and consequences of their unconscious actions for tens of thousands of years, and realized the simplest principles of civilization, which were simple and basic. Moses said, “You shall not kill”; Laozi said, “The bestness is like water”; Confucius said, “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you”; Buddha said, “There is no certain law”; Liu Bang said, “The killers should die, who hurt people and steal should atone for their crimes”; Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.”
These principles of civilization are the basic and universal rules of the world, and they are simple and easy to implement, thus creating brilliant classical civilizations of mankind. It is the success of these principles of civilizations that brings them respect, development and borrowing. In order to understand the classics of civilizations, there are many interpretations of the classics in later generations, many of which are very successful, but at the same time, they leave space for misinterpreting the classics and even smuggling private goods. In this process, the principles of civilizations are wrapped in luxuriant culture and complicated religious rituals, which makes people lose sight of the original principles of civilizations, and even lose themselves in the “theory” of high mystery.
When people get lost, the best way is to go back to the starting point, so now we should always review the principles of civilizations left by our ancestors. The disaster of the modern world is far greater than that of the past history of mankind, which is caused by the deviation from the principles of classical civilizations. Moreover, making money in the name of worshiping saints, misleading the believers’ minds pursuing the spirit of heaven to fall into the path of lucky superstition. Therefore, to get rid of the fog and return to the source is the most simple and clear answer.
Some people ask, can classical civilizations be superior to modern civilization? The answer is that the reason why classical civilizations are superior to modern civilization is that modern civilization has developed on its basis. If modern civilization has the most superior civilization performance, it is because it is rooted in the principles of classical civilizations; if modern civilization has brought unprecedented disasters to mankind, it must have deviated from the classical civilizations. On the other hand, we cannot prove that the superior performance of classical civilizations is based on the cultural gene derived from modern civilization, nor can we guarantee that classical civilization can be developed from modern civilization.
In fact, the principles of classical civilizations are the bottom line of human civilization. It is possible for modern people to break through it with “modern methods”. For example, for “You shall not kill”, the modern people can make up “nationalism” or “sectarianism” reasons for killing; for “The bestness is as water”, the modern people can use “Leviathan” to subvert; for “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you”, and “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.”, modern people can counter against it with “class struggle”; for “There is no certain law”, modern people can use “planned economy” and “compilation of laws” against it; for “Who hurt people and steal should atone for their crimes “, modern people can “perform their duties according to law” to exempt For these, we are determined to focus on the way back to classical civilizations and stick to the bottom line of civilization. Otherwise, we are not civilization.
Classical civilizations also show the most simple and unadorned beauty. People have a dignified manner and elegant diction. The Book of Songs, the Psalms of the Old Testament, Song of Songs, Greek dramas, Mahabharata, etc., are still the acme of beauty that cannot be surpassed today. I remember He Huaihong said that even if Zhou people are useless, at least there is one thing to defend themselves, that is, they are elegant. Most of the diplomacy between countries was poetry response; even when the two countries are at war, they use poems from the Book of Songs to exchange blows. By contrast, how can we not be ashamed of our complacent vulgarity today?
To return to civilization is to worry about breaking through the bottom line of civilization; to return to civilization is to safeguard the conditions why we are civilized people today; to return to civilization is to break all the concise methods of claiming to be “brilliant and mysterious”; to return to civilization is to live gracefully again.
February 19, 2019，simultaneous published in China-review.com and FT Chinese