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Modern Life

The tempo of modern city life is such that we are giving less and less time and thought to the matter of cooking and feeding. A housewife who is at the same time a brilliant journalist can hardly be blamed for serving her husband with canned soup and beans. Nevertheless, it is a pretty crazy life when one eats in order to work and does not work in order to eat. We need a certain kindness and generosity to ourselves before we learn kindness and generosity to others. What good does it do a woman to do some muckraking for the city and improve general social conditions, if she herself has to cook on a two-burner range and allow ten minutes for eating her meal? Confucius undoubtedly would divorce her, as he divorced his wife for failure in good cooking.

The story is not exactly clear as to whether Confucius divorced her or she just had to run away in order to flee from the demands of this fastidious artist of life. For him “rice could never be white enough and mince-meat could never be chopped fine enough.” He refused to eat “when meat was not served with its proper sauce,” and “when the flavour was not right.” I am quite sure that even then his wife could have stood it, but when one day, unable to find fresh food, she sent her son Li to buy wine and cold meat from some delicatessen and be through with it, and he announced that he “would not drink wine that was not home-made, nor taste meat that was brought from the shops,” what else could she do except pack up and run away? This insight into the psychology of Confucius’ wife is mine, but the severe conditions that he imposed upon his poor wife stand there to-day in the Confucian classics.

The Importance of Living
Lin Yutang
1938