This Life Time

Mother’s Distress Day (I)
This Life Time

In this life time,
I wailed, most lost in emotions, twice.
Once, at the beginning of my life.
Once, at the end of your life.
The first time, I would not remember, just hearsay from you.
The second time, you would not know, it’s useless for me to say.
But in between these two times in sounds of wailing,
there were infinite laughter,
time and time again and again,
resonating exactly thirty years.
You know it all, I remember it all.

Yu Guangzhong

There was a poetry reading and piano performance to celebrate Mother’s Day this weekend. Inspired and deeply moved by the poet Professor Yu’s three poems on Mother’s Distress Day, the pianist Christiana Chiu-shih Lin composed and performed a beautiful piano piece.

Poetry reading and piano performance

Professor Yu is my favorite Taiwanese poet. Though he taught English and American literature, his poems are all in Chinese.Just want to share the touching poem with this translation (that may not fully convey the poet’s original Chinese words).

For Mother’s Distress Day II:World of Paradox. People celebrate births but mourn deaths. See Chuang Tzu’s quotes on life and death.

 

 

 

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Drowning Strangers

X’mas Eve I watched a re-run of CNN heroes and was really inspired by Maggie Doyne, an eighteen year old who became a mom of fifty kids in Nepal from her US$5,000 savings of babysitting money. But the street doctor Dr. Wither’s  “I didn’t go under bridges to save homeless people. I went there to  save myself and perhaps my profession” really stuck to my mind.

I was shocked to find Maggie Doyne’s adorable baby Ravi whom she saved a year ago died from an accident just around New Year. Loss would be too painful to bear at her young age and yet Ravi was very fortunate to have her lavish motherly love at least for many months. Her natural role becoming a mother with a large family of children makes me jealous, since junior high I had always been attracted to volunteering at orphanages and a few years ago went to Africa to help start a school at an orphanage.But J.K.Rowlings’ work of deinstitutionalization of children in the world at her Lumos charity would be my choice after what I experienced. Not everyone has as much love and energy as Maggie.

Ravi

I blogged about the homeless in the library but the other day a librarian was beaten by a reader. A nun has been hallucinogenic and yelling loudly from time to time.There are many people with mental illness at the library, some homeless, some angry and disturbed, some schizophrenic. Most of them are babyboomers and once in a while there are students breaking down from the pressure of exams,mumbling and walking back and forth in the courtyard.I wish there were street psychiatrists who would help treat them at the library.Unfortunately psychiatry resources are inadequate even in Taiwan’s medical facilities.

Before the new year, I was struggling to decide if I should continue with my plan to combine writing and doing good through donations of book sales (that do not seem to be working) or do some actual good that would benefit people immediately around me. The homeless and the mentally disturbed would be closest, yet I must admit I am afraid of them and don’t know how to handle them let alone help.Homeless and elderly resources are very limited in Taiwan.

I visited a young couple who started a very successful community on reading and doing good according to the media only to find their target audience of millennials hardly read books and they have trouble paying even their project workers from income on classes for corporations.

The mayor commented he could not understand why seniors  account for almost 25% of traffic accidents. I blogged about seniors getting run over before. After talking to some friends at the senior center about my advocating for seniors on safer traffic regulations or public health and safety in urban living, they all feel it will amount to nothing given the Taiwanese mentality and bureacracies and encourage me to keep on going with my writing projects. Senior welfare though loudly promoted, it’s window dressing in reality.

Book reviews of Larissa MacFarquhar’s “Drowning Strangers” on doing good came to the rescue. Hope my recommendations for purchase at the library will come through soon.

Strangers Drowning Morality ExtremityDrowning Strangers
“Keep yourself well before you keep others well.”Chuang Tzu.

 

 

Unbearable Lightness of Living & Dying in the Heartless Mind

A middle age man got a call from her brother around nine in the morning. Their mother died from cancer at home minutes ago. His brother told him to care for their father because he will accompany his mother on her way to another world.

He was working as daily labor at a very remote area and asked his foreman for the day off to attend to the family emergency. The foreman refused to pay him NT$ 1,000 (US$ 30) because the work was not completed. He had very little money in his pocket and walked seven hours to the nearest train station. It was six in the evening when he finally got home. The police moved the bodies to the morgue to be inspected by the prosecutor. A policeman urged the man and father to go there right away but they had no money. He stuffed a one thousand dollar bill in the son’s hand.

After waiting in a line of fifty at the library’s website for borrowing a book by the Russian journalist named Nobel laureate for literature this year, I finished reading it in no time. Svetlana Alexievich’s “Voices from Chernobyl”was a translation of heartbreaking stories told in the voice of first person, the stigmatized and disdained victims of the  disaster. Though I had watched many documentaries and news on TV about nuclear disasters, this was the first time I really looked nuclear disasters in the eye as if I were living it.

Voices from Chenobyl

It’s not the horrible process of dying that I cannot bear even after all these years of studying and experiencing death and dying, it’s how the leaders and people who covered up the unforgivable mismanagement of the plant and even sent people onsite to clean up unprotected without informing them of the consequences that shattered me. The victims honestly doing their jobs were doomed along with the families for generations to come. Lives weighed so light by the authorities who needed to cover up to protect their own names, merits, selves and interests as savvy crisis management.

If people of the same root were weighed so lightly, what more can migrants or refugees expect? History repeats itself. Even in Japan that had experienced Hiroshima bomb, authorities still tried to cover up the nuclear disaster when it first emerged a few years ago.

What is the real problem? Economic development, technology or human nature?

Love and Loss, Signature of Life

The charm of the lady flooded the lines in a touching article “Four Weddings and One Funeral”written by violinist Jimmy Lin Cho-Liang in a Taiwanese magazine “Wealth”.

Cho Liang Lin

She married in her forties and had three weddings in three cities all in two weeks  just for significant family members who could not travel. (Sydney where she lived for years, Munich where her mother-in-law was and then Taiwan where her dear uncles were.) It must have been exhausting. She became a mother five months later and her relatives heard about her lymphoma before their baby gifts even arrived in her hands. Her chemotherapy and bone marrow transplant all failed. His brother held a simple wedding in the hospital so her sister could attend. A few days later, she passed away. The baby was not even one-year-old. Her funeral was like a carnival, nobody wore black according to her request. She was a bright meteorite that swept through the sky. The most important events in life she went through fast forward in a year or so.

“Everything has a reason for being so. Everything has a reason for existence to be possible. ” Chuang Tzu

In contrast below a very slow film “Amour” that won numerous awards but the Guardian called it an ad for euthanasia. The film stripped aside all the glamour of long careers of the octogenarian actor and actress. Beauty faded , they glow from within, accepting stark reality of age, failure and ego disintegration.

“Nature gives us form, belabors us with living, eases us with old age and lets us rest with death. Therefore if life is good, death is good as well.  ” Chuang Tzu

Finally for any love and loss. Beethoven’s Emperor Piano Concerto Second Movement played by  Lang Lang
The melancholy music filled with feelings of ineffable blessings, a beautiful signature of life. For any musician, loss of hearing would render him or her useless , a disability discriminated and doomed in any music career. Blessed with the profound sound of silence, Beethoven’s true nature emerged.

“Use of No Use is Great Use” Chuang Tzu.