Confucius said, “Since the age of 15, I have devoted myself to learning; since 30, I have been well established; since 40, I have understood many things and have no longer been confused; since 50, I have known my heaven-sent duty; since 60, I have been able to distinguish right and wrong in other people’s words; and since 70, I have been able to do what I intend freely without breaking the rules.”
The average life expectancy at the Spring and Autumn Periods and Warring States Periods was, according to some research, about 19 years. Confucius lived 72 to 73 years, a rare god of longevity indeed. It was even hard for those with power and leisure to reach such an age. Therefore, Confucius could be very well learned, far from what an ordinary people could expect at his times. Thus, Mencius’s ideal society was enabling 70 year old people to have meat in their meals.
The latest statistics in 2001 shows that the world life expectancy is 62.27 with the Japanese taking the lead to be 79.66 while China gaining a position surpassing all developing countries by its 69.98. However, the Chinese have not yet reached the age to do what they intend freely without breaking the rules. Thus, rules are hard not to be broken.
Calculated in the terms Confucius set for us in learning, those of us who have been learning English for ten years still have a long way to go before reaching the time to be established. To have no confusion, one has to spend 25 years. To truly understand the purpose of English learning, one has to do it for 35 years. It takes 45 years if one wants to distinguish right and wrong in other people’s words, and 55 years to manipulate English language freely without breaking the rules.