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2010年7月31日 星期六

Saturday Morning Fun

It's Saturday again. Time for a little relaxation after another back-breaking week. This time, we got to thank my friend who forwarded it to me and of course a newly wed couple. Have fun with them!


 


Newly Wed couple

The bride tells her husband, "Honey, you know I'm a virgin and I don't know anything about sex. Can you explain it to me first?"

"OK, sweetie pie. Putting it simply, we will call your private place 'the prison' and call my private thing 'the prisoner'. So what we do is: put the prisoner in the prison."

The prisoner went in.



Afterwards, the guy is lying face up on the bed, smiling with satisfaction. Nudging him, his bride giggles, "Honey the prisoner seems to have escaped."

Turning on his side, he smiles. "Then we will have to put him back where he belongs."

After they're done, the guy reaches for his cigarettes but the girl gives him a suggestive smile, "Honey, the prisoner is out again!"

The man rises to the occasion, but with the unsteady legs of a new born foal.

Afterwards, he lays back on the bed, totally exhausted. She nudges him again and says, "Honey, the prisoner escaped again."

Turning his head limply, he whispered into her ears, "For goodness  sake, it's not a life sentence, OKAY ?"


2010年7月30日 星期五

What is Real?

What is real? What is unreal? What is objective? What is subjective?  What is appearance? What is reality? What is an image of reality? What is a reflection of reality? Can we ever access reality? Or are we confined to accessing only our "conception" of reality? These are questions which have bothered me since I was 17 when I read my first book of philosophy. After so many years, I am no nearer to getting conclusive or definitive answers than I was.


However, through the intervening years, I have read many books around the subject. I have read books of philosophy about ideas on platonism, monism, dualism, idealism, realism, pragmatism etc. I have read books about the latest development in the strange world of quantum physics, and the role of human subjectivity in the "discovery" of quantum reality, its relations to mathematics and probabilities. I have read books about the history of scientific discovery about the nature of various aspects of physical reality. I have also read numerous books about human psychology, human perception and human memory. I have also read books on this metaphysical question from the perspectives of different major world religions like Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism. Finally, I have read many books on the functioning of the human brain.


What do I think now? Do we have any direct access to reality? If so, how? Are we confined to having access only to our "image of reality" which itself may be the result of further images of reality by others, rather like looking into a mirror which reflects the images of other images in other mirrors placed at an angle to our own mirror. Are the images we see in that second mirror merely the images which themselves are merely reflections of still further images in a third or a fourth or a fifth mirror also placed at an angle to the second, third and so on ad infinitium and each of which may not have a perfectly flat surface or may even be deliberately made convex or concave or partly both for various reasons?


Although some mystics claim that they can have a "direct" experience of God, the Buddha, the Reality, the Abolute, the ultimate Void or Emptiness and give us vivid descriptions of what they "see", to me, it is just something very "real" to them, perhaps something more "real" to them than the so-called "surface reality" of things, people and events happening to or around them, I do not think they have any more right to claim that their "vision" is truly "true" than those who do not claim a similar access to that "Reality". If the others do not have access to his or her "Reality", then it is likely that that may only be due only to their having a "different" conception of what "Reality" means. The mystics may be talking about a personal "visceral" experience which they have,  by long years of training by fasting, all forms of ritual cleansing and religious "preparation" and meditation, been able to achieve and which they subjectively "feel" must be true, because they have sacrificed so much to get to where they think they are. We now know through monitoring their brain waves by fMRI and skin electric conductance measuring equipment that when they are in a deep state of meditation in which they claim they "see" or "feel" they are united with God or the Void etc, that their brain waves are different, much slower. Similar results may be obtained by those whose brains are affected through using psycho-drugs like LSD, mescaline, hashish etc. The work of Andrew Newberg , Eugene D'Aquilli and Vince Rause (Why God Won't Go Away (2001) have shown us that. Conviction, even strong conviction that one is "experiencing" a "super-reality", a "transcendental"  reality, is no guarantee that one is "really" having access to that "Reality".  It may be just another trick played on us by our brain. It may be just another illusion. It may "feel" real and transcendental to the mystic or the drug taker but feeling is no guarantee that what is felt truly exists. The feeling itself may be "real" in the sense that we "feel" it but not the "object" or "being" which the mystics or the drug takers think induces such feelling or which may otherwise be the cause of that feeling. What they "see" in their "vision" may be no different from what a dreamer "sees" in his or her dream. It may be a subjective "creation" of his or her own mind. It is something which is not entirely within his or her conscious control.  Perhaps it may precisely be because of this lack of control, this inability to "command" their appearance which when combined with their prior religious indoctrination, reinforces the mystics' "conviction" and "firm belief" that it "really" came from something or some one or some being other than themselves and that therefore it "must" be from that all encompassing being or reality within which they believe they live and have their being and which some called God. To me, the only assertion which such mystics and psycho-drug takers can claim is that they do have a "different" , an "unusual" or a "non-normal" experience. It remains their own very "real" and "convincing" but still "subjecttive" experience.


What about the "reality" of the physical world? To the extent that that the external physical world do cause certain perturbations and sensations in our brain, they must be considered "real". But we must never forget that the stimulation of the neurons in our brain can be effected by "images" of that external reality by self-created "illusions" no less than by the "real" direct stimulation by external reality.e.g a movie  ( in which disparate, discrete images if flashed to our eyes at a speed faster than the time it takes for our "residual image" to dissipate, then different discrete images will "appear" "continuous". Even a piece of music may move us to tears no less than a "real life" story. A dream can cause us fear, joy etc no less than a "real-life" experience!


It may be possible that when we talk about something as being "real" and therefore "true", what we "really" mean may be quite different. One meaning of "true" is that something corresponds to physical "reality" e.g when we say that there is a computer before me, then the statement is true only if there is in front of me that thing we normally call a computer and not just a "picture" of a computer or nothing in front of me. If there is a computer before me, it will still be there and will not suddenly disappear even when I am not looking at it. Here true has the same meaning as "having real physical existence". But "true" may have another meaning in philosophy, e.g when applied to a proposition. In philosophic logic, a conclusion expressed by a particular statement is "deductively" true only if its premises are right and there is no logical inconsistency in the relevant inference, in the sequence of logical analytical process called "syllogism". What the philosopher means by "true" is that the relevant statement conforms with the rules of logic. But there is also yet another type of "truth" ie. empirical "truth" . We may say that the proposition "The earth circles the sun." is true. But there is no guarantee that it will be true after the "big Crunch" when the entire universe will collapse after it has run out of all energies. That statement is only "contingently true", so far or up to that point in tim we make that statement. So we may say that the proposition "the sun rises every day in the East" will correspond to empirical reality. But normally when a pedestrian in Mongkok talks about something being true, I don't think he would be talking about something being physically true, logically true or contingently true. He will be talking in a very vague and in very general terms, which is all that is required to see him through everyday life. Logic is a wholly diffferent sphere, relevant only in our thinking process and may only have the slightest connection to what the ordinary guy thinks of as the "Truth" or "reality'.


Further, many of the things and statements we claim to be true or real are merely so "conceptually" as in a deductive or inductive reasoning process or will occur in the contexts of  "opinions" e.g conclusions we draw about such questions as whether democracy is better than dictatorship, a totalitarian system of government is better for China than a liberal parliamentary sytem of government, whether homosexual marriages should be legally recognized, whether we should have a controlled economy or a free market, whether we ought to allow monopolies or quasi-monopolies, whether we should allow compensated dating by teenagers, whether we ought to allow for the establishment of a legal "Red light District" for better social hygiene or the control of the spread of various sexual diseases, whether we ought to do more reclamations of our harbor, whether we should use English or Chinese as our medium of instruction in secondary schools, whether Eastern philosophy is better than Western philosophy, whether we can have a morality without God, whether God exists or whether there is meaning to life etc. All these types of statement are value-laden and can be endlessly debated without any one being able to completely convince the others although many would like to think that they have better evidence and grounds for their beliefs than their opponents. In fact, when we say that something is true or real, the ordinary guy seldom makes a distinction between something which can be traced to sensory data or their interpretation of other more basic "facts" or interpretation of other interpretation of still further interpretations of the primary sensory data in different spheres ie. opinion on the primary or secondary or other statements at several removes from the "primary" factual data. They thus often make "categorical" or "classification" mistakes by confusing something relatively more physical (therofore relatively more objective)  with something less objective, confusing different levels of "reality" in the spectrum or hierarchy of physical, chemical, biological, psychological (rational, emotional)  social levels of  "reality" at progessive more abstract level of ideas and concepts and thus engage in heated but often misguided arguments because they are arguing at cross purposes! 


Finally, on whether it is possible to have any truly "objective" reality, my view is that such "reality" or what some philosophers call the "thing in itself" may exist but we have no way of accessing it except through the use of our senses and the interpretative organ we call our brain. As LaoTzu  said more than 2000 years ago, "the Tao which can be spoken of is not the true Tao." "Ultimate reality" can be defined only negatively, in terms of what it is not. All we may hope for is some kind of inter-subjective "truths" based on the consensus of adult, normally intelligent people not suffering from any obvious mental "delusion". There may therefore be huge areas of disagreement on what may constitute the "truth" or the "reality' of the case, depending on the age, the sex, the race, the culture and the historical time in which the relevant statements are made such that what may be considered true in one age in one place by one group of people may not be so considered by those of a different age, sex, place, time or group.  In other words, "reality" is a "social construct" depending upon the provisional consensus of those for whom this concept or idea means something or is otherwise relevant to assist them in determining whether and if so what to do about something to some person or things, for the purposes of "practical living". To me, each one of us and each group or society is a distorted mirror. We are distorted by our genes, the history of how we are raised, the kind of emotional experience we went through at various stages of our lives, the people we have met, the kind of books we have read and also the accidents of time and place and history and other chance elements affecting our lives. When we claim that what we are saying is true or correspond to reality, all that we may be asserting may be the provisional intepretative conclusion we form from the images reflected in the mirrors of our perception and interpretation caused and created by our brain as affected by what we think  we  "saw" in the "mirrors" of other's perceptual and interpretative "mirrrors" which in turn are affected by still other perceptual and interpretative "mirrors" of the brains of the others, and so on ad infinitum. Images of mirrors reflecting other mirrors reflecting other mirrors, each adding its peculiar distortions. What is real? What is true? What is false?


2010年7月28日 星期三

Creativity and the Whole of Life

In the previous blog, I wondered if F David Peat had read LaoTzu , Krishnamurti and Buddhism. Today I checked on another book written by him, but jointly with another scientist philosopher David Bohm called Science, Order and Creativity: A Dynamic New Look at the Creative Roots of Science and Life (1987). I got an answer.


I turned to the final chapter of that book, Creativity and the Whole of Life. This chapter examines how socio-cultural conditioning leads to rigidities of the individual and of society as a whole and how the East and the West deal with such problems and how three basic attitudes of mind affect our lives: the scientific, the artistic and the religious and finally suggests how the dilemma might be solved.


Desmond Morris in The Biology of Art (1962) describes how, when chimpanzees were given canvas and paints, they immediately applied themselves to making balanced patterns of colors rather like certain forms of modern art like abstract expressionism and became so interested in doing so that they had comparatively little interest left for food, sex or other forms of activities that normally hold them strongly and similar results were obtained with other primates and young children. Yet curiously, when they grow older, their urge to create fades or is restricted to certain limited areas like science, music or painting. Why? Further experiments show that once rewards and punishments are introduced like praise and approval and the children become "self-conscious" about the kind of paintings they are "supposed" to do or once they observe what the other children around them are doing, they start to produce the bare minimum that would satisfy the experimenter. The reason? To obtain the reward, the whole order of the activity and the energy required for it are determined by arbitrary requirements external to the creative activity itself: it turns mechanical and repetitious. It is no longer spontaneous. As a result, even greater rewards or punishment are required to keep the activity going!  The setting of goals and patterns of behavior imposed externally and mechanically produces a rigid structure in our consciousness that blocks the free play of thought and the free movement of awareness and attention required for true creativity. But this does not mean that rules and external orders are always or necessarily incompatible with creativity. "To live in a creative way requires extreme and sensitive perception of the orders and structures of relationship to individuals, society and nature..only when creativity is made subservient to external goals, ..implied by the seeking of rewards, that the whole activity begins to wither and degnerate." say the authors.Only if we begin to do what is required just for the reward e.g pleasing words of praise from the others, even if they are not true and we begin to collude with the others in exchanging flattering remarks that lead to mutual satisfaction will what we say or do become lies and self-deception. We no longer create for the spontaneous joy of creation of, in and for itself. Is that not what happens in so many types of economic activities, in social relationships, in commerical "art" and even in that otherwise most natural and spontaneous creative act to express human love, ie love making, when so many people are obsessed with their  "sexual performance" and "satisfaction". Everything seems to be done for the "makret", the "target consumer". Worse, the denial of opportunity for spontaneous creation may lead not only to lack of spontaneous joy, it may even lead to pervasive dissatisfaction and  boredom which will find an outlet in destructive behavior, like all kinds of violence, not just physical violence but also emotional violence. If prolonged, they may eventually result in the deadening of our sensitivity and the loss of our ability for the free movement of our awareness, attention and thought.


Our education, based on a mechanical systems of the carrot and the stick, of rewards and punishment, has thus become "a tremendous barrier to creativity.". In addition, our education system places far too much emphasis on "fixed knowledge and techniques" and in consequence on "authority" as determining the generative order of our psyche: not only the unquestionable authority of the teacher but the general authority of knowledge itself, as a source of truth that should never be doubted. To the authors, this leads to "a fundamental loss of self-confidence, to a blockage of free movement and a corresponding dissipation of energy, deep in the generative order of the whole of consciousness." This degenerates into a disposition to be afraid of inquiring into fundamental questions, a tendency to look to "geniuses" and "experts" whenever any difficulty or basic problem is encountered. There is a great need for standardization, to conformity to arbitrary norms, that come not only from the teacher, but even more from the peer group and from society at large. What is true in the classroom is true also in the family, in the work palce and in society in general. Society in general is based on a mechanical fear of punishment and promise of rewards. They fear that unless this system is adopted, society may risk chaos and constant and total disruption. They forget that creativity is a basic need of the individual and that its blockage may ultimately threaten civilization with final destruction.


We need to be more creative and have more opportunities for the expression of our inherent creativity. Creavity should not be a matter of a flash in the pan. Creativity has to be sustained. Thus the artist has to constantly renew his creative source in the generative order: he should not have a creative vision and then apply it mechanically, in a sequential process by means of rules, techniques and formulae. On the contrary the rules, techniques must flow naturally out of his sustained fresh creative vision in a novel ways! Although to a certain extent, mechanical application is necessary, the basic impetus must come from the creative germ or idea, not from an external, mechanical, explicate or sequential order of succession.


Even at the level of society and culture, there are a large number of general assumptions, principles and values underlying them. These may be necesary for it to function smoothly over a limited period of time. However, there is a tendency to regard such temporary and provisional assumptions, principles and values as absolutely necessary, as universally and as permanently applicable. They are thus unyiedlingly, rigidly applied and defended when challenged but many of these assumptions, like different kinds of idealogies which encourage attitudes of aggression, hatred, and prejudice against other races, sex, age, religions and other minorities and sub-groups in society, may"pollute" the generative order of society and which, like a virus, constantly reproduce themselves within the body of society itself. One particularly pervasive misinformed principle widely held by our society is the assumption that creativity is needed only in specialized fields. To some extent, writers, dramatists, film makers sometimes make us aware of such prejudices and rigidly held attitudes and psychotherapy and group therapy may also help to clear up some of such individual misinformaion which go back to early childhood or at a later phase of life but in general these have very little effect on society as a whole.Traditionallly, the aim of psychiatry is to free creativity from the rigid blocks within the individual and to help the individual to "adjust" to society even though  it may be society itself which is sick. Some psychologists, like R. D. Laing, feel that what is called "insanity" in an individual can actually be a "sane" response to a "mad" society. We have already discovered that individual psychological problems may often be the result of the peculiar psycho-dynamics within particular problem families. Healthy changes in one individual in that family may often cause problems for another member of that family accustomed to the precarious balance or equilibrium achieved by their habitual pathological ways of interacting with one another. The same may happen at the social and cultural level.


For the above reasons, the psychologist De Maré calls for a creative transformation of culture through dialogue, something which will deeply affect both the individual and society together. There is a similarity between free dialogue, with no fixed tasks or goals and Freud's method of free association in psycho-analysis, which helps to bring repressed mental contents into awareness. To the authors, the way forward is genuinely free "dialogue", which in Greek, means "through (dia) the word (logo)" so that that information or meaning may flow between people in communication, in more or less the way that water in a stream may flow between its banks. This is a bit like Habermas's theory of communicative action, except that in the case of Habermas, such communication may be confined to rational discourse. We must however distinguish between dialogue and debates. In a debate, people hold relatively fixed positions and their main aim is not the discovery and joint exploration of what the truth may be. They seek merely to convince and convert others to their own views. Thus such debates may often degenerate into a confrontation or a polite avoidance of the genuine issues. In a dialogue, by contrast, people are genuinely interested to listen to others, with sympathy, in a spirit of friendliness, of understanding, not of hostility and they keep an open mind and are ready to change their own views if there is good reason to do so. In such a spirit, we will  give proper emphasis now to the interest of the group and now to that of the individual, as the situation demands. Our mind is no longer rigidly committed to the individual or to the group and as a result, the "emotional charge" inevitably associated with the assumption of one or more members of the group can be reduced to more manageable proportions and the hidden assumptions held by different people or groups will emerge. In the spirit of dialogue, there will be less pressure to  conform or to bow to authority. The emphasis will be on what the truth may be. The fixed and rigid frames and hidden assumptions will thus surface and may dissolve in the creative flow of genuine dialogue. People may then reach a new kind of microculture and consensus. We shall be able to move freely together towards certain commonly shared meanings. Only thus will the social and cultural "misinformation" and "pollution" cleared and creatively removed. 


Rightly or wrongly, religion, which is supposed to reconcile man with Nature, with other people and with themselves, has in the West been strongly influenced by the concept of a Supreme Being who is supposed to be the creator of the universe and everything within it and which gives human life meaning. In the East, the emphasis has been placed on discovering "the ultimate ground of all being" e.g Brahman is supposed to be the fundamental source of everything and the ultimate self or Atman is thought to be identical with that ultimate being or Brahman. The individual can thus enter directly into that absolute reality. But only a few have been able to reach that state of bliss and perfecton. In the West, mystics have a somewhat similar notion of union with God or the Godhead . But in general, the emphasis is on God's grace rather than on individual perception and understanding. For most people, religion is not primarily a question of mysticism but of belief in a set of principles and practices used in daily living. To the authors, the attempt to claim an absolute truth about the totality implies an absolute necessity and risks disposing our mind never to yield, no matter what evidence to the contrary may be. If so, a genuine dialogue is clearly impossible. Thus historically, true dialogue has seldom taken place between religions because they have different doctrinal notions of absolute truths. At best they may tolerate each other. But in the East, the major emphasis is placed on self-awareness, through inward observation and meditation. Thus Taoists emphasize on the Tao which if allowed to operate without human interference, will always tend towards harmony with nature and with the totality of the Tao, with a minumum of directed purposeful action. Laotzu emphasized detached inaction which paradoxically is itself a form of action or the highest form of action. This notion is also present in Hatha yoga which emphasizes the bringing about of harmony of the body by adopting certain fixed postures which help to expose the rigidities of the body in places where the karmic energy is blocked to the ultimate end of aiding inward perception. To Krisnamurti, it is precisely non-action or inaction which is needed for bringing about that very state of mind which transends time, space and anything which can be grasped in thought. The Buddha similarly advocates mere contemplation of the flow of reality to achieve awareness of the illusory nature of the various concepts, ideas, and emotions which cause us suffering. The suspension of explicate activity is thus common to the Tao, Yoga and Buddhism.


To the authors, "what is clearly needed in both the East and the West is the creative surge of a new order. Nor it it sufficient for each culture to adapt to its own needs certain features from the other that it may find convenient or attractive." The reason is that the rigidity of the basic assumptions of both the Eastern and the Western cultures remain unchallenged. To the authors, "That would only lead to false play and the blockage of creativity." There must be a genuine dialogue, free from fixed points of view, free from preconceptions, so that some truly free flow of information from truly fluid minds can arise, with rich possibilities for creative thoughts of socially shared meanings, between Western dynamism and Eastern suspension of outward activity, between the temporal and the timeless orders, between the individual and the social orders, with cosmic order on one side and the social and individual orders on the other.


From a different angle, the authors hope that nations will deal with each other not on the basis of what is thought desirable, convenient and in the national interest but like the scientist, what the truth may be according to well tested principles of what is true and what is false according to observation and the proper inferences to be drawn from observed phenomena. Likewise, we may like to reflect that the Latin root of Art is "to fit" as in the use of words like "article", "artisan" and "artifact" and that originally there is littel separation of art and the rest of life, both esthetic and practical. Today, art is fragmented and treated as separate from life. Art like music, drama, literature, poetry, dancing, the visual arts is concerned with beauty, harmony and vitality. But it should also be viewed more generally as fitting and proper to particular spheres. There can thus be an "art of living" too. Art is particularly concerned with the imagination ie. the ability to make mental images, the creation of hitherto unknown forms, not only visually, but through all sorts of feelings, tactile sensation, kinesthetic sensations and other new ways, a kind of play that include the subtle orchestration of feelings, intention and will. Intuitive perception is the act of making explicit the ratio or proportion already implicit in creative imagination such that reason unfolds from imagination. But with crytallized forms, the danger is that they too may become rigid when regarded as absolutely necessary. If so, the mind starts to "play false" and fantasies are defended as reality and the formal logical relationship of concepts are confused with the "truth". Artists constantly need to "create" new forms. So do non-artists. Harmony can only be achieved through constantly "novel" perception and conception of what is "fitting and proper". Religion normally deals with what is whole (as in the word "holy),timeless and contact with the ultimate ground of being and "worship" has the same root as "worthy" or the giving of high value but most religions think that it is not possible to give the right values to things unless there is a correct relationship with a Supreme Being. Our religions have got to learn to place more emphasis on compassion and to acknowledge that each individual shares in the general human conditioning. But over the years, religion has served to confuse and to play false, to engage in all kinds of "self-deceptions" and of the exploitation of others and to defend certain religious rigidities necessiated by their concept of the Absolute to such an extent that instead of preaching love, they engage in the spread of hatred and violence on "doctrinal religious grounds".  The word "belief" comes from the Teutonic Aryan word "lief" which means "love". Therefore to believe means to love what is believed. We should remember that belief also implies trust, confidence and faith in the essential honesty and integrity of a person, an institution, a cultural activity, and ultimately in life and creativity because without such belief, the serious and sustained commitment necessary for creativity may become impossible. We need a middle ground between complete belief to the extent of ignoring inconvenient "truths" and complete skepticism which results in a cynical attitude to everything. We must believe in something but not that something is absolute. We must adopt a kind of via negativa: whatever we say the totality is, it is not, like the Taoist concept that whatever can be spoken of or described is not the true Tao.  But orginally science, art and religion were not distinct but inseparably united. There is no intrinsic reason why the three attitudes should now remain separated IF they all strive for what is regarded as the "Truth". We clearly need a dialogue between the three attitudes, rather like what happened in the Renaissance, a radical re-examination of the basis of all three disciplines and cultural activities. We must begin to loosen up the rigid structures which we find everywhere blocking our creativity and stop concentrating merely on the "end products" of our creative activity but strive to sustain an open, flexible and  "creative" attitude to all aspects of our lives and to heal the fragmentation that envelops us everywhere we turn our eyes. But above all, we must reject the notion of god-like perfection because it should be looked upon merely as a goal towards which may work on but never as something achieved or even ultimately achievable. To do the latter will be the end of our creativity! All great changes have begun to manifest themselves in a few people at first. They will be the "seeds" from which much greater things may grow. We must strive to be one of those seeds.


2010年7月27日 星期二

The Blackwinged Night

I was attracted by the cover of a book. The background is all black. Its upper two thirds are occupied by a gray circle described by a band of about half an inch and whose left side slides down the left margin and continues on to the binding side of the book. Inside the gray circle and at its bottom there is a sanded concrete pedestal. Above the hexgonal pedestal, there are two figures in burnished bronze. One of them rests on the pedestal in the form of a W but in such a way that it looks like the stylized form of a woman lying on her back with her head straining towards its opposite, a figure on top in the form of a C with the top of the C curve also straining towards the upturned "head" of the female form below and with its short left stylized truncated "arm" also reaching towards the female. But the lower parts of the two truncated torsos, both at an incline of about 60 degrees from the verticle are not joined. They are each cut or "sealed" off by a "slab" at their waist level. They strive to be but are not joined. Across the lower part of the circle and cutting right across it are three white lines against two gray bands but with two vertical lines at the one-third and one sixth positions thus producing the impression that the rectangles may be "bricks" piled one on top of another. Within the top left rectangle the name of the book appears "The Blackwinged Night" in orange against the gray and in the bottom right, its subtitle in navy blue "Creativity in Nature and Mind". Below the two gray bands of the title of the book is the name of its author F David Peat enclosed within a smaller circle which interects with the lower part of the big cirlce enclosing "the man and woman in love making" figures above. A very good complex design which nicely projects a contemporary feel, a blending of science and art, the yang and the yin, approaching but not fusing with each other. The book was published in 2000 by Helix Books of Perseus Publishing.


I looked at the back cover giving hints of what the book is all about: "What does the creation of matter in the universe have to do with humanity's creative spirit? What is the connection between..art, literature, and music, and ..mathematical formulae and scientific theories?...explores the profound similarities and connections between the universe's "creativity", which reveals itself in the laws of nature, and the creativity of human consciousness...the way it animates the physical world, giving us the power to experience beauty--whether gazing into the night sky, listening to Bach's B-minor Mass or creating ourselves something extraordinary and new".  I opened the book. It has seven chapters: Introduction, The Living Universe, The Big Bang, Silence and the Void, Language, All About Time, Creativity and the Body, Conclusions, 232 pages including Index at the end of the book. The book is recommended by Athony Storr, author of the Dynamics of Creation, Churchchill's Black Dog and Music of the Mind and Suzi Gablik, author of The Reenchantment of Art and Conversations before the End of Time. David  Peat himself is a popular science writer having authored Infinite Potential: the Life and Times of David Bohm; Superstrings: the Search for the Theory of Everything and with John Briggs, Turbulent Mirror: an Illustrated Guide to Chaos Theory and the Science of Wholeness.


I turned to the chapter on Conclusions. Here's what I found: Although our bodies are constantly renewing themselves and we admire creativity in others and we want to be creative ourselves, we sometimes feel dull and uncreative and trapped and boxed in by a boring job or tied to a meaningless routine. This is evidence, not that we are not creative. On the contrary, it is evidence that we are! "Our natural state is to be creative but...this creativity is not being fully engaged or challenged.". People romanticize about the countryside only when they have abandoned it for the city. Man only wants what he does not have! "It is only those of us caught up in all the mechanism of the industrialized world who have become obsessed with "being creative'--something that we are going to be anyway, if we could only stop worrying about it and get on with the business of living.". As I am never tired of repeating, our brains are evolutionarily built to ignore what is routine, what is regular, what repeats itself through the effect of "habituation": we "see" and we "feel" only what is "new" in our environement or simply what is "different". We are never going to be "satisfied" once we settle down to a new environment. Does that not explain our constant need for new "gadgets", for "fashion", for "spectacles" for new "sensations" and even for "news".


Peats examines traditional societies like the North American Indians. They function through small groups. At night, they would gather around a bonfire. They pass the pipe. Whoever has the pipe is expected to talk: he may sing a song, tell a joke, say a prayer, relate a story, raise a question etc. In thus speaking, he is speaking not just for himself, he speaks as a member of the tribe. The elder may tell a story to give a new angle on some of the questions posed and suggest new ways of dealing with recurring problems. Every one participates. There is an exchange of views and a constant flow of information. It is creative. Everyone has a part in such creativity. This may be what is lacking in our contemporary world: we are divided, separated, segregated, compartmentalized, isolated. There is no longer that creative flow of information of traditional tribal societies. I may ask further: what is this bloggers' world if not an expression of our common desire to reach out, to communicate, to generate an interactive flow of information and feelings between individuals in a huge metropolis each otherwise isolated in his own bedroom or study or office or office desk, a concrete expression of our desire to seek to build something, something bigger than our individual constricted, restricted, repressed, even suppressed "selves", a desire to "create" something collectively: a community for the free flow of information and of feelings, of interchange, of creative communication? In doing so, we no longer feel that we are "merely" a part of an economic machine. We do not feel fixed, forever, into a designated social or economic role, as a worker, a manager, a professional in a job, a father, a mother, a son, a daughter, in our family and our group of friends. We feel more creative. We feel freer. We feel freer to create a new self, a different self.


To Peat, traditional societies meet their practical challenges through small groups which forms "spontaneously" to carry out specific tasks eg. hunting, food gathering, clearing land, herding animals, fishing, building a boat, moving a village, making a long voyage, organizing a special ceremonies like initiation, marriage, funeral, worship of particular Natural or tribal deities etc. When the task is finished, they dissolve back into society in a natural way. To Peat such society is analogous to what chaos theorists call "self-organizing systems"., which are open to the environment, not closed off or shielded, localized in space and time. "Such systems can be quite stable and may be able to preseve their internal dynamics and even repair themselves. But this rule applies only as long as they remain open to their surroundings. Once the flow of energy, through matter or information ceases, the system dies away," says Peat. Although their social organization is hierarchical, it is not as rigid as in a modern hierarchy. "It is not so much a case of leaders imposing their authority upon others; rather, their authority derives from the group itself. When the task is finished, that sanction for authority is withdrawn, the group dissolves and the leader goes back to being an ordinary member of his or her society...Whilst the group is operating, each member has the obligation to work in harmony with the others and to use his own special skill for the good of the entire group." In constrast, our social and economic organizations for meeting market demands, offering a commerically required service, for fulfilling certain governmental functions, though similarly hierarchical, are mechanically and rigidly so, with a more or less permanently fixed internal pyramidal power structure. Often the origin of power resides outside of them e.g. in the shareholders or board of directors. Authority is extraneous to the group! The end result of all this is that most people are not fully challenged, fully engaged. They do not share a common pool of meaning. There is little communication as equal partners,only demands and commands, from top to bottom. We feel that we are seldom called upon to contribute to what we do best. We watch the clock and cannot wait for that moment when we can leave work and put all our creative energies into family, friends or hobbies.


Peat thinks that though we have energies, we may not always use them properly. That may be due to fear of the future because of what we went through in the past. We may be stopped by memories of traumatic events. We are reluctant to engage in risky adventures. We resist movement. We block changes. We divert our energies intead towards  preseving the exsting fixed structures. We act against the natural processes of growth and transformation. "To overcome this dilemma, we must become reconnected and engaged..and regain our place in the natural flow of things...and free our natural energy for more creative work".


Although we seek novelty all the time, we also seek repetition if the phenomena or experience is complex like listening to an opera, a symphony, a long poem, a novel. Each time, we discover something new in it, some aspects of it which we may have overlooked in the past: we make new associations between its different motifs, its different levels. This applies not only to reading and listening to music. It also applies to friendship: old contacts must be taken up in letters, emails, face books, Christmas and birthday cards, phone calls, reunions etc. The German artist Joseph Beuys argues that "every one is an artist". Art is not confined to the studios and worshops. Each one can engage in 'social sculpture" in social gestures within the "real" world.


But Peats warns us that there are far too many people out there working on the big world problems whose personal lives are in shambles: they don't get along with members of their own families, their spouses, their girl/boy friends, their children, their friends and colleagues.To him, it may be far better if they were to devote a little of their creative energies to solving the problems within his own personal lives and look inward instead of outward to establish the kind of harmony they claim they are working towards. "Being creative means giving great attention to one's whole being, to what one does and how one does it.", says Peat. We should strive to make a sculpture our own lives, shape it, structure it and give it a beauty which it would not otherwise have in accordance with the principle of openness to chance and randomness! That is the greatest kind of creativity we can engage in! We should see chance and randomness not as our enemy but as our opportunity and our challenge and make creative use of it.   Our actions can ripple through society in totally unpredictable ways. A chance remark by a teacher may spark a lifelong interest in a student who is primed for that at that moment. When we are in harmony with the dynamics and behavior of the whole system, when we resonate with it and feel it in our bones, we may act in ways whose effect may be much better than we think. But we may do so only if we remain authentic to ourselves and be sensitive to our environemnt and we act out of kindness and love. As Pasteur said, creative chance only happens to the prepared mind.


To be creative, Peats thinks that sometimes we need to suspend all actions.  When the source of action is in some way distorted, we may end up making things worse. He suggests that "we should remain just at the edge of an action, sensing it within the body or within the organization...a little like holding a tuning fork near an instrument: when the intrument is properly tuned, the fork will begin to vibrate in sympathy."  Creative suspenion may take days, hours, or a mere fraction of a second. What matters is acting at the right moment. This advice sounds remarkably Taoist to my ears. Has he read Laotzu?


What are his final conclusions? He says: "creativity is ubiquitous and entirely natural. It may begin outside the light of conscious awareness until it is ready to manifest itself in one of a variety of ways. For such reasons, creativity cannot be legislated or planned. It cannot be commanded to appear. Neither can it be taught. Musicians, painters, scientists, actors, chefs and others can be taught various skills and must serve long apprenticeships before being able to practice their crafts. But none of this is teaching creativity." To be creative, we need to ask questions. Sometimes, by ourselves but often by engaging in open and frank discussions with others, when we should forget about our own "self-respect" , our "ego" and the need to "protect" and "defend" it. Questions, questions and more questions. But in a calm, serene and secluded environment. He says, "Don't try to do anything or to impose any order on what you see. Just sit and discover what the environment wants you to see....Simply be yourself. Don't impose some sort of life plan or concept about yourself. Don't judge yourself. Don't fantasize about what you could be. Simply be with yourself, just as you engaged that painting for longer and longer periods of time. There is no goal to such an exercise. It's not about self-improvment or accumulation of knowledge and wisdom. It is simply an act of engagement with one aspect of the world that should be most familiar to you--your self". Has he read Buddha or Krishnamurti?


But Peat is not a Buddhist. He says, "In the end, approaches like this one are no more than simple techniques to get us to think, give attention to the world around us, and of things in different ways. They are not creativity itself. they are simply means designed to remove some of the blocks to creativity's free flow. Creativity is ever present. It streams through the firmanent. It envelops and nurtures each moment of time, and, if we will but allow it to enter, it will flow through lives and embrace us".  But from every gifts, there may be a corresponding obligation. "Gifts should be exchanged....we must take that creativity that is offered to us, in whatever form it comes, and try to use it wisely. We must use it with kindness, compassion, and engagement. In this way, its fruits will grow and multiply and so we can return them to society, nature, and the cosmos. The rest is up to us, for with intelligence and love, we too can move the world by that millionth of an inch.". Peat turns "religious". If we push anything to its limits, everything must ultimately be religious! How can it be otherwise? The ultimate is religion's homeground!


2010年7月26日 星期一

A Tiring Sunday

Sunday was an extremely tiring day. In the morning, I went to the weekly mass at the Cathedral.  I had to resist with the utmost difficulties from falling asleep listening to the boring and unimaginative sermon on the proper way to pray from our former parish priest and now vice-Bishop. I felt really sorry for God. I spent the time doing my own meditation instead.


After the mass, I telephoned my daughter who arrived Saturday morning. She had just  got here from Shanghai after her 25-member summer course group had a brief visit to world expo there and had just woken up after the pub hopping last night in Lan Kwai Fong with her summer course friends following her dinner with me. She was then with Florence, my wife's God-daughter, a very tall, slim, young lady now just finishing G10 in Canada and whose eyes always smile with the kind of swiftly changing sparkle peculiar to the intelligent. She too had returned to HK for the summer vacation but had already been here for about a month. They were with her mother, Wendy, a very slim middle aged lady whose father was a doctor in the PRC and who married Florence's dad, a science graduate from the HK Polytechnic (now University), turned investment adviser. She is a very sensitive, self-confident, quick lady with a huge face on a very tiny frame, literally like a head on match-stick. She too always has a smile on her face. I suppose intelligence runs in the family. I like both of them, We always meet with them for lunch or dinner or a visit whenever any of my two daughters return from the States in summer. This time, they were both at a Japanese restaurant in Wanchai. I asked for directions and then joined them.


When I arrived, I saw the three of them. They were seated at a small table. I know that space is expensive. But the table was really super mini-size. At the opposite side was Wendy. She was in a simple short-sleeved beige shirt on a pair of like colour trousers. She gave me her usual big sunny smile and told me they had been there for more than half an hour and had already ordered and apologised for not having told my daugther to give me clear enough directions because the signboard of the restaurant was really small and I had to call several times to get clarifications before I could finally locate it. She asked me what I liked. I said I ate little and would take anything but poison so that she could order anything which she and her daughter fancied and not have to bother about me. I said that I had so little on my-home packed lunch that it always made the girls at my office twinge with guilt whenever they compared what they had on their plates or lunch boxes with what I had in mine. We chit chatted for a while and then my daughter said she wanted to go to Causeway Bay with Florence to do some window-shopping. Just "window-shopping"? I smiled. Florence was in loose fitting Indian style shirt but with small patches of emerald greens, sky blues dotted with tiny orange and yellow, a very tasteful casual shirt. My daughter told me she had an appointment with my niece at his exclusive brand-name fashion shop in Causeway Bay. She said she might want to intern at one of his shops. He also had another one in Central and also a newly opened one in Shanghai and I believe one in Tokyo. I said to them,"If you got your shopping location, your advertising, your brands, your style, your timing and your target customers right, fashion is a real money spinner. Prices could easily be marked up ten even twenty times production costs, depending on brand name. Young people now can really pay with with their dad's credit card or else treat their parents as their ATMs!". The two girls giggled knowingly, looking into each others' eyes and didn't say anything.


After the lunch, I headed off for the Book Fair. I did not want to waste the free ticket given to me by the head of the HK Taoist Alliance at Friday's talk at the HKSHP. I knew that I would probably hit incredible congestion there on a Sunday afternoon. But how could I not? I went through half of the stalls, mainly PRC publishers and also the publications arms of the two local universities and the two English universities and decided to call it a day. It was impossible to lug the books through the entire hall with at least 10 kilos on my shoulders and in my hands through those crowds walking cheek by jowl and being constantly squashed, pushed or bumped by their bags or their milling bodies. After about two hours, I had to sit on the pile of books I bought, leaning my back against the wall at the entrance to get a respite from the constant shoving. I thought I would continue after the rest. Whilst sitting there, my head was dizzy with all these feet in sandals, thongs, mock-straps, sneakers, high heels, medium heels, boots, boat shoes, clogs etc. moving in endless stream before my eyes. We laugh at women and the quantity of shoes they buy. What about book lovers and their books?! At first, I thought whilst resting, I would look at the faces of the owners of the passing shoes but after a while my eyes were so tired that I had to close them. I spent the time doing meditation instead. Then I left.


I bought some books at incredible prices, some at 70% and some even at 50% discount. Three 960-page English books with colour prints at $110 each ie. 1001 Books, 1001 Wines and 1001 Paintings One must see before One dies respectively and a 853-page book A Critical History of New Music in China by HKCU's Liu Ching Chih (劉靖之) for $173! But they weigh like 4 heavy bricks and contributed no small part in my decision to leave. Amongst others, I also bought The Unspoken Rule of Chinese History by 吳思 and 50 Reasons why China may  never be Great, by David Marriot and Karl Lacroix and another one on how "China is Stranger than Fiction" by 鐘祖康 , all books banned in the PRC and also another book by the cultural sociologist Suen Lung Kee (孫隆基) on the popular American mind called A Matricidal Culture (殺母的文化) . In addition, I bought a Biography of Garcia Marquez, a Memoir of Pablo Neruda,   A Chinese translation of one of the hottest French novelists called  Michel Houellebecq, his La Possibilité d'une île, another translated novel by Silvana de Mari's "L'Ultimo Elfo". On philosophy, I bought one on Buddhist Philosophy by 方立天, a further one on Jewish Thought by 柯友輝, and also the "Philosophic Notes"( 哲學筆記 I) by a radical Chinese thinker called 博浪沙 and another book called International Esthetics edited by 汝信.  I also bought a number of books on ancient Chinese poetry and a new so-called "poetic novel" in Chinese. It's impossible to list them all. How I wish I have the time to really read them! Before I do, they will add to the height of the books piling up on the floor of my small flat! Sunday was a day I really felt the "weight" of knowledge! Or is it the "weight" of the "illusion" of knowledge?


2010年7月24日 星期六

Zen for Happiness (快活禪)

When one thinks of Zen, the usual image that rises upon the horizon of one'd mind may well be that of a bald headed monk in a brown or black loose fitting robe sitting cross-legged in a lotus position with half or completely closed eyes inside some mountain cave or other or in an empty room somewhere inside a Buddhist monastery, with smoke rising in curly wisps from a metal joss stick bowl filled with the grayish powders of burnt ashes. One does not usually associate Zen with happiness. But that  impression was shattered last night. It was shattered by Dr. Ho Man Ying, Tina at a talk at the HKSHP. Dr. Ho is a Ph D who started studying philosophy and then went on to study Buddhism and is now the assistant head of the Hong Kong Institute of Buddhology. She obtained her Ph. D at the Chung Shan University and is now a lecturer at the School of Continuing Professional Education of HKU and of Chinese Cultural Studies at the Open University and has published a number of popular books on Buddhism.


Last night, she gave us a brief introduction on the usual Buddhist ideas about the Co-dependent origination of effects (緣生法), the causation of the standard 5 poisons of (五毒) greed, anger, ignorance, pride and doubt, the 4 Noble Truths (四聖諦) to the elimination of suffering  ie. Suffering, Accumulation, Removal and Extinction (苦集滅絕). To her there are many ways or upayas (法門/方便) in which we may arrive at Nirvana (湼盤), those on earth  or imperfect (defective) nirvana (有漏湼盤) and final Nivana or perfect or defect-free nirvana (無漏湼盤). Suffering is seen as a result of ignorance (無明) in the sense that we do not understand the true nature of our being ie. that everyone has Buddha-Nature( 佛性) something clear, bright, pure, peaceful and therefore happy. Happiness is defined negatively as the absence of pain and suffering. But normally, we are only able to achieve partial and brief happiness because our happiness do not usually last.


What we need to do to be happy is not just to" know" and "understand" that it is possible for us to realize our inherent birth right, our Buddha-Nature but how we may "in practice" prolong the intermittent periods of our ephemeral happiness and peace of mind and to make that condtion of enlightenment and peace permanent: how to make such a suffering-less and painless state endure so that we feel good all the time. I asked her how do we "know" we have got this so-called Buddha-Nature and that that is not really just another "concept" or "dogma" which Buddhists assert. Her reply was typically Buddhist. She said what we "know" is not intellectual "knowing" but "empirical" knowing.  I asked her whether what she termed "empirical" knowledge is equivalent to "experiential" or "existential" knowledge, a kind of direct knowing obtained in "practice" when we do meditation when we achieve a kind of "non-dual" type of awareness(覺) in which we do not attempt to "judge" whether the thoughts and images appearing in our mind are good or bad, beneficial or prejudicial to ourselves but merely observe their coming and going and without taking any "active" steps to "reject" or "expel" or "drive away" ideas we regard as "bad" or "an obstacle" or "interfering" nor to "follow" or get attched to them when they are considered good or beautiful because in the latter case they may become just another form of temptations (心魔), perhaps not as bad as temptation to evil thoughts but still bad. She agreed. In fact, that is what I found in my own meditation.


According to Dr. Ho, we may do meditations in many ways, sitting (坐禪) or "silent" (靜禪) way or "walking"  or "active" (行禪). What she learned from her master Happy Rinpoche, is a new technique of "rapid Zen" (快禪). Her master is now called "the happiest man on earth" and has written many books on how he achieved that. She told us that her master originally suffered from claustrophobia at age 13. When he accompanied the other masters to do "closed door meditation" (閉/封關), he could not function properly for a year. Then he finally decided to confront his fear and deal with it by confronting head on and observing it through experiencing it fully in meditation. He was completely cured of the phobia after three days!  In psychology, I think this is called voluntary "flooding": we "fully" face the object of our fear in all its modes, without escaping, without turning away and actually confront it directly and experience its full power in our body and discover through actual experience that it is not as terrifying or frightening or fearful as we first thought it was. He observed the most subtle and most minute changes in his own physiology and was thus instantly "cured" after three days, without welcoming it, but without rejecting it either, and finally without fear. In fact, the fear revealed its true nature, just something transient. It was just an emotion and like all emotions, they never last for any substantial period of time! It was nothing. It was empty. Thereafter he never experienced this claustrophobia again. It had completely disappeared: vanished into thin air! He merely observed and tried to understand how it affected him and that it was not as fearful as he previously thought. Knowledge and enlightment has saved him from his fear. 


What is most interesting to learn last night is this rapid Zen. What this means is that we do very quick Zen: ie. stay relaxed, observe whatever is going on inside our mind, our bodies, without judging and then do our gentle best to return to a state of calm and serenity. I think this is a good and practical way under modern living conditions. We cannot be fully engaged in doing things every minute of every day of our waking life. There are bound to be moments when we take little snippets of time to relax, eg. after we have done a file, after finishing a particular task whether at home or in the office, after breakfast, lunch or dinner, whilst engaged in certain "automatic" or "no-thinking required" actions e.g whilst walking in the streets but not crossing the road . We can take a break, a one minute, two minute, 5 minute, 10 minute break for our mind not to do any conscious "thinking" and do as many "quick Zen" as possible each day. This makes a lot of sense  to me. Because we will have plenty of opportunity to do that. The Tai Chi master have also taught us the principle that we can practice whilst walking, standing, sitting and sleeping (行站坐臥, 無不用功).  I know from my study of psychology that when we engage in patterns of conduct which are repetitive, it will take less and less time for us to get to the optimum condition. The psychological or neurological reason is simply that with each repetition, it takes a smaller and smaler quantity of energy to kick-start the "triggering point" for the "automatic launch" of the "repeated sub-routine". In other words, the threshold for its launch becomes progressively lower with each repetition. This is in fact the age old principle of  "practice" (功夫). The more practice we do, the easier it becomes. There is a Western saying: practice makes perfect. Chinese folk wisdom has an equivalent saying,"familiarity makes for skill" (熟能生巧). The psychological explanation is that the "sub-routine" has switched its "mode of operation" (MO) from that at the "conscious" level to that at the "sub-conscious" or non or un-conscious MO.  The unconscious MO is fast because it does not involve having the relevant neural messages go through the loop of the forebrain loop or frontal cortex, which takes a great deal of time to do fine grained comparison and analysis. This is by far the gist of what I have learned from Dr. Ho's talk.


But learning about the "Quick Zen" is not the only thing I learned from Dr. Ho. I also got clarification from her on the relationship between emptiness or the void ((空性), karma (業) (the result of the action of different causes), the nature of reality l(物之本性) like the idea that everything has no substance ( in the sense of permanent substance)(物無自性) because of the operation of the principle of "dependent co-origination)(緣起性空). and the fact the although things do not have a permanent and fixed intrinsic nature belonging to themselves, they do have an apparent "effect" or "appearance" or appear as "phenomena" to our five senses (五根) viz. eyes, ears  nose, tongue  and body or skin (眼耳鼻舌身) corresponding to our senses of sight ( form colour, images , hearing ( sound, words, music etc), smell, taste, and touch (色聲香味觸) and if we add will (意 or 法) become six roots of temptation and confusion (六根) or (六境)(6 objects of our corresponding "sensory organs")  and therefore will assume a certain form (相) to our five senses (無體有相)  to give rise to 6 kinds of knowledge (六識) ie. 眼識耳識鼻識舌識身識意識) and 5 sources of suffering (五蘊) or body, sensation or feeling, images, conduct and cognition or knowledge obtained through the organization of the data from our various perceptive organs within our brain or mind.(色受想行識.). To our five senses, hunger is "real" even though hunger is a phenomenon! We do have a real need to do something about it. There is a hierarchy of what is "real" and what is "illusory". I also got a new angle on the essential Buddhist concept of Emptiness or the Void  (空). She links this idea to change. Everything is empty and an illusion (諸相諸法皆空)because of the operation of the principle of constant changes. This is very much like what the Taoists have always been advocating: that change (易) or (變化) is the only unchanging law of the universe and the normal state (常) of the universe. Things do not have their own nature because they cannot exist independently by themselves: everything is mutually caused by the "temporary" coming together of a number of other causes and as the different causes are constantly changing accordance to time, place and people, it cannot have a "permanent" or "fixed" nature and therefore is just a "concept" created by our mind or an illusion and therefore its true nature is empty (空). But fortunately, the Buddha thinks that every one is naturally endowed with and possesses three powers : the wisdom to be compassionate (慈慧), the wisdom to understand (智慧) and also power to improve (向力). Therefore there is hope of transcending all sufferings in this world and to arrive at nirvana for every one! And if we cannot realize them, that is only because of the obstacles (障) to their full realization. Once the obstacles are removed, our true nature will reveal itself. Wisdom will help us see the light that is within us. Wisdom is like a fire. It will burn away all obstacles to our understanding of our true nature to be happy and all the obstacles (無明障) that stand in the way to our realizing our inherent potential to be a Buddha ourselves. But to obtain wisdom, we need to to learn and after we have learned we must persist in training ourselves to remove the relevant obstacles until our constant awareness becomes second nature to us.


What is particularly useful is that she related a personal experience of how she actually arrived at enlightenment on a particular occasion. She has a master whom she had followed for a while. The master was always joking, full of fun, a sense of humor and generally very easy going but he was leaving. She went to the airport to see him off and felt very sad that he was leaving and it was uncertain whether she could see him again although after all the years, she had learned and intellectually realized that she should not get attached to him but she could not help feeling how she felt. She felt very grateful and was reluctant for him to leave. But after he left, it snowed. She was in her bedroom, still thinking about him. Then a thought struck her. She could merge her gratefulness and thankfulness into emptiness so that instead of it being a "personal" gratefulness, it became a "general" gratefulness as the snow melt into water and water will join the other elements of the earth and merge into the world. The gratefulness was still there but it had become a more universal sense of gratefulness. It has merged with the Void of the universe!


2010年7月23日 星期五

Fun for a Friday morning.













Thank God, it's Friday. No more translated poetry. Time for a little relaxation and fun. Here're some questions sent to me by a friend. I have no answers. Do you? 

 

Why do supermarkets make the sick walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front.


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Why do people order doublecheeseburgers, large fries,and a diet coke.


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Why do banks leave vault doors open and then chain the pens to the counters.


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Why do we leave cars worth thousands of pounds in our driveways and put our useless junk in the garage. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Why do we buy hamburgers in packages of ten and buns in packages of eight.. 
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EVER WONDER ...
Why the sun lightens our hair, but darkens our skin?
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Why can't women  put on mascara with their mouth closed? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Why don't you ever see the headline 'Psychic Wins Lottery'? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Why is 'abbreviated' such a long word? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Why is it that doctors call what they do 'practice'? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Why is lemon juice made with artificial flavouring, and dishwashing liquid made with real lemons?
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Why is the man who invests all your money called a broker? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Why is the time of day with the slowest traffic called rush hour? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Why isn't there mouse-flavored cat food? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Why didn't Noah swat those two mosquitoes? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Why do they sterilize the needle for lethal injections?
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You know that indestructible black box that is used on airplanes? Why don't they make the whole plane out of that stuff?!
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Why don't sheep shrink when it rains?
   But the wool's clothings needs to be drycleaned?xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


Why are they called apartments when they are all stuck together?


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If flying is so safe, why do they call the airport the terminal?


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Now that you've smiled at least once, it's your turn to spread the stupidity and send this to someone you want to bring a smile to (maybe even a chuckle)...in other words, send it to everyone. We all need to smile every once in a while.










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2010年7月21日 星期三

Borges' Yo (波赫士的我)


I think it might be interesting to see how Borges thinks of himself as a man. So I chose to translate the following poem under the the title of "Yo". So here it is:


Yo                                                           I                                                                         


La calavera, el corazón secreto,                  The skull, the hidden heart.                               那頭顱,那隱蔽的心,
Los caminos de sangre que no veo,              The paths of blood I see not,                             
那些我看不見的血脈,
Los tuneles del sueño, ese Proteo,               The tunnels of dream, that Proteus                    
那些夢中的隧道,那布特廸斯,
Las visceras, la nuca, el esqueletto.             The bodies, the nape, the skeleton.                    
那身軀,那頸背,那骨架。
Soy esas cosas. Increíblemente                    I am those things. Unbelievably                         
我是那些。不可思擬地
Soy también la memoria de una espada        I am also the memory of a sword                       
我也是一把劍的記憶
Y la de un solitario sol poniente                  And that of a lonely setting sun                        
那正自我散布為金黄,影子和虛無
Que se dispersa en oro, en sombra, en nada.which dissipates in gold, in shadows and in nothing.   
孤單落日的那把
Soy el que ve las proas desde el puerto;        I am he who sees the prows from the port           
我是從右舷看到船頭的那人  
Soy el que los contados libros, los contados  I am he that the few books, the few                   
我是疲累時間雕塑的那寥寥可數的
Grabados por el tiempo fatigados;               engraved by a tired time                                 
書本與多少東西
Soy el que envidia a los que ya se han muerto. I am he who envies those already dead.            
我是那妒忌那些亡人者
Más raro es ser el hombre que entrelaza       What's rare is being the man who weaves          
稀奇的是我就是那在一屋內某房中
Palabras en un cuarto de una casa.              
Words in a room in a house.                            咬文嚼字的那人。 


To Borges, he is first and foremost the various parts of his body, visible and invisible to himself. Then he is also his memories of a "sword" which obviously can carry more than one meaning. both as an instrument of aggression, self protection and also another meaning in a sexual context.. But to him, this is something incredible, something which inspires awe. But he is always aware of the effect of time. He thinks of himself as a man in the sunset of his life, dissipating himself into the gold of that sunset and then into darkness and nothingness. He thinks of himself as a careful person, the type who would scrupulously inspect and weigh up the ship of life on which he is going to venture into the unknown world from the front of the ship to its sides. He thinks of himself as the books that he has read and little else. He is not happy with the way he is. He prefers to die. He envies the dead. But above all, he thinks of himself as a person who knows and who works with his words. He is a slave of words. But through long years of practice, he may have become  also its master. And the  slave or master has turned himself into a magician. What he "entrelaza" (weaves) in the darkness of his room is the web of his life! Like the web of the spider, its silky threads shine with all the colours of the rainbow under the sun. But he no longer has eyes for them. He has become progressively blind by his early 50s'.


2010年7月20日 星期二

Borges on Blindness. 2 (波赫士之失明.2)

Just found another one of Borges' reflection on blindness. Here it is, with my English and Chinese translations.


What is peculiar in this Spanish poem that there is only one sentence of 14 lines! This is possible because whilst the rules of Spanish grammar with regard to tenses, genders are very strict, the Spanish are extremely lax in permitting where one can place the preposition, adjectives, the adjectival phrase, the adverbs, the adverbial phrase or qualifying sub-ordinate clauses and there can be a direct object and an indirect object or object clause to a verb.  Thus an adjective may be placed either before or after a noun. When it is intended to emphasize the quality concerned, is placed in front but otherwise normally placed after the noun it qualifies. Similarly a verb may have what they call a direct object and an indirect object but if so, only the direct object may be qualified by a sub-ordinate clause but one verb may apply to many object each of which may be so qualified. Here, in this the poem, Borges makes use of this peculiar characteristics of the Spanish langauge. He begins it with the verb "Indigno" (I am not worthy or possibly other meaning) followed by the proposition "de" and then followed by five objects  or object clauses each with its own subordinate clause or clauses! This however is a nightmare for the Chinese translator because Chinese sentence structure does not allow the object of a verb to wander too far away from the subject. Otherwise the sentence reads most "un-Chinese". But to retain the original flavor and word order of the Spanish poem, I have followed the advice of Lu Shun, who thought that one of the main purposes of a translation of a foreign work is to give the Chinese a "feel" for the type of sentence structure in that foreign language. I have little choice in the matter. 


Sobre su Ceguera                                 On his Blindness                                              失明一ニ


Indigno de los astros y del ave                I am not worthy of the stars and of the bird       我比不上星星也比不上那


Que surca el hondo azul, ahora secreto,     Which ploughs the deep blue, now secret, 傲翔深藍之雀鳥,而今已成秘密,


De esas lineas que son alfabeto                Of those lines which are alphabet 比不上那些把行行字句如字母般運用的他人


Que ordenan otros y del marmol grave      That the others use and of the grave marble    比不上我廢眼迷失


Cuyo dintel mis ya gastados ojos             in the shadow of whose lintel                      在其半陰影中的 


Pierden en su penumbra, de las rosas         my wasted eyes lose themselves ,                門楣上莊嚴大理石


Invisibles y de las silenciosas                   Of the invisible roses and of the silent          比不上那些隱形玫瑰及  


Multitudes de oros y de rojos                   Multitudes of golds and reds                       那片片默然不語的金黄與嫣紅


Soy, pero no de las Mil Noches y Una I am, but not from the Thousand and One Nights  我就是 , 但不是那在我影子下


Que abren mares y auroras en mi sombra      Which opens seas and dawns in my shadow  敞開海洋與曙光的一千零一夜


Ni de Walt Whitman, ese Adan que nombra Not of Walt Whitman, that Adam who names 也比不上和特、惠特曼,那個在月下給萬物


Las criaturas que son bajo la luna,               The creatures below the moon,                      定名的亞當,


Ni de los blancos dones del olvido              Not of the white gifts of oblivion                   也比不上那些遺忘記憶中的白色禮物


Ni del amor que espero y que no pido.         Not of the love I await but not ask.             也不惱根那我期盼但不索求的愛情。


In this poem, Borges plays around with the starting word "indigno". The word can be treated as a verb, as the first person present indicative form of the verb "indignar", meaning "I am angry with or at"  or "I am outraged that.. ." or alternatively as "I am unworthy of..." Alternatively it can also be treated as an adjective, in which case it means it is contemptible", or  "improper",  or  "wretched" or "dreadful" or "shameful" or "disgraceful" or "degrading" or "humiliating"  that.... The ambiguity therefore adds to the complexity of the meaning of the poem. It certainly seems that that word should be differently translated in different contexts but the difficulty is that Borges just used one "verb" which is distributively and successively used for all 5 subsequent predicate or direct and indirect object of that verb.