Chapter 18 What I expect

第十八章 我的期盼

18. What I expect

This concept of “greatness” is an interesting one. To aspire to its grandeur can result in one of two opposing consequences: the one leads to ill-placed self aggrandizement and, ultimately, despair and destruction; the other steers you to personal achievement, service, and benefit to the society. Which fascinating avenue would you choose?

I am sure that everyone can identify with this experience: you complete something, perhaps a project or a task, and the people judging your endeavors are truly thrilled at what you have accomplished with your efforts. They laud your performance and heap you with praise and adulation. This, if it happens often, is a dangerous enticement, for it leads to the door of narcissism. “In Greek Mythology, Narcissus was known for his beauty, and for his vanity: for example, he disdained those who admired him. Nemesis, the goddess of retribution against those who succumb to hubris, decided to punish him. She lured him to a pond wherein he fell in love with his reflection.”

One version suggests that he tried to kiss his reflection, fell into the water and drowned; an alternative version has him losing his will to live and staring at his reflection until he dies. Either way the narcissist is forewarned: self love can only lead to moral and spiritual destruction. The alternative path, that of greatness, has an individual discovering his true essence: his true being in the world. He then uses this self knowledge to serve others. “There are two primary ways in which man relates himself to the world that surrounds him: manipulation and appreciation. In the first way he sees in what surrounds him things to be handled, forces to be managed, objects to be put to use. In the second way he sees in what surrounds him things to be acknowledged, understood, valued or admired. … A test of a people is how it behaves toward the old. It is easy to love children. Even tyrants and dictators make a point of being fond of children. But the affection and care for the old, the incurable, the helpless are the true gold mines of a culture.”1

I recently watched a TED video featuring Byron Reese.2 The thrust of his talk was that all of us are destined for our own form of greatness, whatever that means individually. Tragically, few people achieve their apotheosis. Most claim that it is not there right in front of us: however, it is. We formulate excuses and kill or neuter our potentiality. I have no money, I am only one man, I have no friends: the list is endless. Mr. Reese notes that every hindrance to greatness, every one, has already been overcome. We are just looking for lazy reasons to fail. The key then is to accept your eminence: you are alive, are you not? We then must narrow down our gifts. Everyone has some: what are yours? As I tell my students, make a list of your strengths and your weaknesses. You will soon see your trend. This opens a world of discovery.

In keeping with the theme of greatness and discovery: nutmeg3 is now an innocent spice that is readily purchased in any quality supermarket. But between the 16th and 19th centuries, it was worth more money than gold: literally! Nutmeg was a prized and costly spice in European medieval cuisine used as a flavoring, medicinal, and preservative agent.

Most importantly: in Elizabethan times, because nutmeg was believed to ward off the plague,4 demand increased and its price skyrocketed. “In the Banda Islands, ten pounds of nutmeg cost less than one English penny. In London, that same spice sold for more than £2.10s. – a mark-up of a staggering 60,000 percent. A small sackful was enough to set a man up for life, buying him a gabled dwelling in Holborn and a servant to attend to his needs.”5 Eventually the English took control of the Spice Island of Run.6 Four years later there was a truce and they traded it for the useless island of Manhattan, as in New York. The Dutch thought that they had gotten a good deal; such are the quirks of history.

Today “nutmeg,” as a product, has virtually no value at all. It is one of the great curiosities of history that sometimes mankind gives value to a product or movement that has no value at all. The Internet would be an example. Internet personalities can become great celebrities simply by displaying their bodies -- think Kim Kardashian, for example. She has no intrinsic value but has millions upon millions of followers. Who is the most beautiful person that you know? The answer is yourself -- remember this!

So, if you are willing to “sail forth,’ where is the new quest? Can I discover it? Yes, of course -- I can be that adventurer if I am willing to be sincere and forthright with what my skills actually are. Many, however, dismiss their greatness through vices or illusions.

18. 我的期盼

「偉大」這個概念很有趣。渴望偉大可能會引來兩個相反的結果,一個是造成不當的自我擴張,最終導致絕望和崩壞,另一個是引導你達成個人成就、服務眾人,並且利益社會。你會選擇哪條吸引你的道路呢?

我相信每個人都有過類似的經驗,當你完成某件事情,也許是某項計畫或工作,評判你工作的人對你努力完成的事感到很高興,他們稱揚你的表現,對你大加讚美和恭維。如果這事情經常發生,那這恐怕會成為一種危險的誘惑,讓你走向孤芳自賞的大門。「在希臘神話中,水仙納西瑟斯以他的美貌和虛榮聞名。舉例來說,他輕蔑仰慕他的人。復仇女神涅墨西斯專門對付自大的人,她決定懲罰納西瑟斯。她引誘納西瑟斯到一個水池旁邊,讓他愛上了自己映在水中的倒影。」

有一說是納西瑟斯試圖親吻水中的倒影而不慎跌入水中溺死了。而另一個版本則是說他喪失了活下去的意志,看著自己水中的倒影ㄧ直到死為止。無論是哪一個版本,都為我們預先警告了自戀的下場:自戀只會導致道德或精神上的崩壞。另一條道路,真正偉大的道路,是讓人們去發掘自己真正的本質,那就是在這世界上真實存在的意義。然後他用個人體會到的知識去服務他人。「人們有兩種主要方式與周遭的世界產生連結:控制和理解。在前者,人們看見身旁需要處理的事、必須控制的勢力,以及可利用的物品。後者,人們看到身旁需要獲得認可、理解、重視或欣賞的事物。……有一個測試人的方式是看他對待長者的態度。喜愛孩子很容易,即便是暴君和獨裁者也會特別塑造喜歡小孩子的形象。但給予年老、病入膏肓以及無助的人們愛護與關心才是一個文化真正的金礦。」1

我最近看了一部拜倫‧瑞斯在TED上演講的影片。2他談話的主旨是,每個人對偉大的定義不同,但所有人都註定要成就某種偉大。令人唏噓的是,很少人能夠達到他們的理想。我們宣稱理想遙不可見,然而,它確實就存在我們眼前。是我們為自己找了藉口,扼殺或者削弱了我們自身的潛力。我沒有資金、我只有一個人、我沒有朋友,這種藉口是無有窮盡的。瑞斯提到,所有通向偉大的障礙都不存在,我們不過就是為失敗找一些懶惰的藉口。改變的關鍵在於接受自己的卓越。你是活著不是嗎?接著,我們必須檢視自我,縮小範圍,找出自己的天賦。每個人都有自己的天賦,你的是什麼呢?我教我的學生列出自己的優點和缺點,很快就能看到你未來發展的走向,而這便可以開啟一個探索的世界。

搭配偉大和發現這兩個主題來談一下肉荳蔻粉3,它現在是一種常見的香料,可以在任何優質超市中買到。但是在16到19世紀間,肉荳蔻粉比黃金更值錢。這是真的!在中世紀歐洲的料理當中,肉荳蔻粉是一種珍貴而價格高昂的香料,當成調味劑、藥材和防腐劑使用。

最重要的是,在伊麗莎白時代,因為肉荳蔻粉被認為可以抵禦瘟疫4,需求增加後,價格跟著水漲船高。「在班達群島,十磅肉荳蔻的價格低於一便士。而在倫敦,同樣的香料售價超過2.10英鎊。漲了驚人的六百倍。一袋香料的錢就足以讓一個人過一輩子,可在霍爾本買一間有三角牆的房子,還能請一位僕人來照顧他的需求。」5英國人最終掌控了香料群島中的盧恩島6。四年後簽訂了一只停戰協議,他們用這個島來換取當時無用的紐約曼哈頓島。荷蘭人認為他們這個協議簽得很值得,歷史的演變真是奇怪。

在現代,肉荳蔻粉這項產品已經沒有任何價值了。有個人類歷史中奇特的現象是,有時候一些不重要的產品或活動,卻被人類賦予了極高的價值。網路是一個例子。網路紅人僅透過在網路上暴露自己的肉體而變成明星,像是金‧卡戴珊。她的內在沒有什麼價值,但是卻擁有數以萬計的粉絲。誰是你認識最美的人?你要記住,這個問題的答案是你自己!

如果你願意「啟航」,你追尋的目標在哪裡?能夠找到嗎?當然,自己可以成為冒險家,如果你願意真誠與坦率面對你的技能。很多人因為惡習與幻想而毀了他們的偉大。