Reading Yutang Lin: Chinese humanism
文章来源: 时间的灰烬2006-08-06 15:27:56

I wondered if there is anything better than reading this in front of the window, on a summer weekend day with stormy heavy rain sending in cool air. Came up some feeling of "having volumes of books as pillow", but not a dream, not a dream. 

My dear friend, let this be shared with you. Several paragraphs I feel most relevant.

Chinese humanism shows curiously little interest in life after death, or in the metaphysics about the universe. It has a fairly simple proposition: We have this life here and now. Accept it and see what we can do with it. The temper of Chinese humanism is contained in one sentence, in Confucius' reply to a question about death. "We do not know how to live. Why ask about death?" It is an unambitious, nonspeculative and down-to-earth proposition.

There is a certain pathos about Chinese humanism and a certain cheerfulness in acceptance of life' It reminds me of the ethics of Marcus Aurelius. The absence of religion
makes it a little sad, makes it poetic, makes it what I call a sensitized philosophy of living. What do we know of the Infinite? Of immortality of the soul? Nothing. Meanwhile, life is here, short but beautiful, with all its beauty and terror and sorrows and struggles and hopes, its pathos and its tragedy. It is sad, as we make it, or happy, as we make it. We are all guests on this earth, on a temporary sojourn.It makes sense that if our stay is short let us make it pleasant. The end of life is the wise enjoyment of it. The poet Li Po says, "The universe is a lodging house for the myriad things and time itself is a traveling guest of the centuries. This floating life is like a dream. How often can one enjoy oneself...?"

This sensitized philosophy of living is well conveyed in the famous sketch, "At the Orchid Pavilion," by Wang Shichih, "It is a clear spring day with a mild caressing breeze. The vast universe, throbbing with life, lies spread before us, entertaining the eye and pleasing the spirit and all the senses. . . . Now when men come together, they let their thoughts travel to the past and the present. . . . Then as time passes on and one is tired of his pursuits, it seems that what fascinated him not so long ago has become a mere memory. What a thought! Besides, whether individually we live a long life or not, we all return to nothingness. The ancients regarded death as the great question. Is it not sad to think of it?"

It seems that what we need, after all the pursuits of science and specialized knowledge and skills, is a concern about man himself. The need for today is for a humanizing of all knowledge, that distributes relative importance and relates all values to the end of a happy human life. Modern knowledge has grown in incredible complexity; sooner or later it must return to simplicity again. It will need a simple viewpoint. Then we can afford to see the world go by.The world is like a market with many goods. What man can enjoy is what he brings home in his basket. Let us hope that he does not forget the basket, or bring an empty basket home.

When almost finished, the rain is gone for a sunny sky.
When it can not be expressed, simply bear it in your heart.