Chapter 19 Freedom: how it all begins

第十九章 自由的起點

19. Freedom: how it all begins

I remember a freshness and an excitement when I think back some sixty or so years. In this, I am sure that I am not unique: life with all its complications and frustrations begins much like a distant vessel on the horizon. It is initially just a small dot that slowly gets bolder and bolder, and finally looms fully into view. It is only then that you can make out its details: its huge size, its complicated structure, its blazing color, its sublime profile. In all of this, you sense a feeling of lightness, the embrace of optimism. You do not know why you feel this way, but you do. You are alive, though somewhat dull and awkward.

Now: what do you do with this life? This is the fundamental question that sticks with the thinking person until the end is presented. Its answer does not seem to reside in money, power or the things of the world; it appears to be a higher goal – almost unreachable. It is “to know the unknowable,” to paraphrase Averroes1 or “to achieve my meaning to life,” in the parlance of Dr. Frankl.2 I was just too young to properly articulate this question, though I felt that the query was there, nonetheless. I also suspected that to not adequately address this concern would fill my life with needless pain and suffering, the classic unrequited life. I wanted freedom, whatever that meant! I come from a large and boisterous family; there was just my sister and me for a very long time. Then, two brothers appeared in rather quick succession. They were like twins. My mother used to dress them in similar attire. As we all got older, I surreptitiously took on the mantle of sergeant major: I just couldn’t get the military fantasy out of my mind. At the time, no one questioned whether toy guns or “cowboys and Indians” were violent activities, the Second World War having been over for only ten years or so.

I remember exploring the environs around our home with my little army. It was, curiously, not far from a disused military base. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the Japanese conquest of Hong Kong and, subsequently Singapore,3 the British Empire and therefore Canada, immediately reacted -- some would say overreacted. Troops were marshaled and military bases were built. The Canadian government, in its wisdom, decided that our isolated piece of the world was subject to invasion.

To be fair, the Aleutian Islands4 were soon attacked and some were occupied. It is the province of historians to explain what the Japanese Empire was thinking. Tactical advances that look absurd today through the prism of time were terrifying in 1942.

There were just so many trees in our area that no one thought them of any value. To build the local defense infrastructure, they were felled and winched into a large pile and set on fire. What to our environmentally sensitive age seems ridiculous, an almost criminal waste was viewed, at the time, as expeditious. This created a labyrinthine world that would have welcomed Theseus and the Minotaur.5 My brothers and I probed and explored, and investigated some more. I now remark that leadership was an essential part of this game. With my little flashlight, I always led us back to safety. It is a quality all of us aspire to find or choose to follow.

Once my “group” finished our activity and trundled back home, I was initiated in the next major concept of my education: work. Work defined as an activity that produces a result. At an early age, I was introduced to my mother’s urban architectural project: this was the remaking of our backyard into a virtual paradise with a running brook and a pond filled with Koi. As I recall, this was a toil that went on for years and years producing negligible results -- but it kept us focused and busy, and maybe that was the point.

Into this construction, another brother was added some fourteen years younger than me. Sadly, far too young to join our army and I was also past my military phase. Everyone had an assigned task: my job was to sift the newly delivered topsoil and remove the sticks and large rocks. I spent hours shaking the device and removing the debris: an excellent introduction to laborious and tedious labor. The soil was then carefully spread on our back lawn to raise its level above the projected stream and pool.

From my adolescence, I “took away” two indelible facts. Firstly: we must somehow take control of our own life. The first person I must lead is myself. Unless I am a leader of me, I will always be a follower of other people’s expectations. Secondly: work as a concept, is just not pleasant. I must find a methodology in my daily tasks that makes my economic efforts acceptable, even agreeable. This would make work “good” and wholesome.

Unfortunately, on this second point, I was tremendously misdirected. Work can only be good for free human beings if it is accompanied by an obscene amount of money, as in the heyday of capitalism for the working man after the aforementioned war. Or, if it is goal oriented, you are a “wage slave” to acquire experience leading to expertise: think of the peasant who eventually buys his own land, like my grandfather. Standing on its own, work, with no plan, no vision, is lethal to the mind.6

How many smart, old industrial workers do you know who were bored with their jobs and suddenly got enlightened upon retirement? Extremely cruel, but truthful. Now this has nothing to do with the fact of being a working man. Industrial workers created our societies and gave their lives to building a family, and thus a community. You must keep your mind alert whatever you do. “Frankl observed that it may be psychologically damaging when a person’s search for meaning is blocked.”7

The aged who have a twinkle in their eyes and a joyous disposition have found their own Valhalla: their own meaning to life.

19. 自由的起點

當我回顧過往六十年左右的光陰,我還記得那種新鮮和興奮。我相信我們都有這種感受:生命中所有的錯綜複雜和挫折,就像是遙遠地平線上的船隻,一開始只是小小一點,慢慢變得越來越大,到最後赫然逼近,出現在眼前。直到這一刻,你才能看清它的細節:巨大的船體、複雜的結構、鮮豔的色彩和高大的側影。在這過程當中,你有輕飄飄的感覺,並擁抱樂觀。你不知道為什麼會出現這樣的感受,但你確實有所體驗。你是活著的,縱使你的人生有點沉悶和困難。

現在問題來了:你打算如何過這一生?對於會思考的人來說,這個根本的問題會一直縈繞心頭,直到死亡來臨的那一天。這個問題的答案似乎不在於金錢、權力或物質世界當中,而是一個更高、幾乎無法達到的目標。套句阿維洛斯1的話,就是「去探索那不可知的世界」,或用法蘭可博士的話,那就是「實現個人生命的意義。」2我當時太年輕了,儘管我覺得問題存在那兒,卻於無法適當地表達我的問題。我甚至懷疑,若這個問題不能獲得充分解決,那將會為我的生活帶來不必要的痛苦和折磨,這就是典型得不到回報的人生。不管自由意味著什麼,我當時就是想要得到自由!

我來自一個熱鬧的大家庭。很長一段時間,家裡只有我跟妹妹。後來,兩個弟弟在短時間內先後來報到,他們就像雙胞胎一樣。我的母親常常讓他們穿著相似的服裝。當我們稍微大一點時,我暗中擔起士官長的職責,我無法擺脫軍事的幻想。當時,沒有人質疑玩具槍或「牛仔和印第安人」是否為暴力的活動,當時第二次世界大戰才剛結束約十年。

我還記得當時和我的ㄧ小支軍隊探索住家附近的環境。說也奇怪,這地點就在距離一個廢棄的軍事基地不遠的地方。在日本轟炸珍珠港、征服香港以及新加坡之後3,大英帝國立即作出反應,加拿大也隨後跟進,也許有人會說當時的政府反應過度。加拿大政府集結部隊,並且建立軍事基地,我們的政府愚蠢地認定我們這與世隔絕的地方會遭受入侵。

平心而論,阿留申群島4很快遭到襲擊,部分小島被佔領。日本帝國當時在想些什麼就留給歷史學家銓釋吧。透過時間棱鏡來看,現在看1942年日本戰術的攻擊很荒謬,但是在當時是很恐怖的。

當時我們所在的地區有大片的樹林,沒人認為這些樹有什麼價值。為了建立當地的軍事防禦設施,大片樹林遭到砍伐,並集中成一大堆燒掉。對環保意識高漲的時代來說,這聽起來十分荒謬,這種天然資源的浪費幾乎是種罪行,可是在當時被認為效率很高的作法。這些建設創造了一個迷宮般的世界,可迎來雅典國王賽修斯和克里特島的牛頭怪。5我和我的弟弟們在這個地方進行調查和探索,發掘更多的事物。現在我必須說,領導統御是這個遊戲最重要的一部分。我總是用我的小手電筒,將大家帶回安全的地方。領導能力是我們所有人都渴望找到或選擇遵循的特質。

一旦我的「團隊」結束了活動,並拖著沈重的步伐走回家裡,便開始進行我個人訓練的下一個重要觀念:工作。工作的定義是能夠產生結果的ㄧ個活動。在很小的時候,我就開始參與母親的城市建築計畫。這個計畫就是將我們的後院改造成一個真正的天堂,有流水的小溪和充滿錦鯉的池塘。我回憶起來,持續數年的努力,成果微不足道。但至少這項工作讓我們保持專注和忙碌,也許這才是真正的重點。

在這項建築計畫中,另外一個比我年輕十四歲的弟弟加入了我們的家庭。可惜的是,他太年輕而無法加入我們的軍隊,而我那時也已經過了迷戀軍事的階段。每個人都有一項指定任務,我的工作是篩選剛送過來的表層土,並移除樹枝和大石頭。我花了幾個小時搖動設備並清除瓦礫。這是讓我接觸艱辛、繁瑣的勞力工作的絕佳機會。處理過的土壤小心地舖在我們後院的草坪上,使它高過我們所規劃的小河和水池。

從我的青春期,我學到兩個不可否認的事實。首先,我們必須以某種方式掌制自己的人生。我必須領導的第一個人就是自己。除非我是自己的領導者,否則我將永遠活在別人的期望中。第二,工作的概念本身是不會令人愉快的。我必須在每天的工作中找到一種方法,讓工作成為可以接受,甚至是令人愉悅的狀態,這將使工作變得的是正面且有益我們身心健康的。

不幸的是,在這第二點上,我被嚴重地誤導了。只有伴隨著大量的經濟收入,工作對一個自由的人才有助益,如同前述戰後資本主義鼎盛時期的工人一樣。或者,若是你有設定好的目標,你可以成為「薪資奴隸」來取得工作經驗,然後發展自己的專業。想想那最終得以購買自己土地的農民,我的祖父就是這樣過來的。缺乏計劃和願景的工作對心靈來說是具有毀滅性的。6

你認識多少聰明的、年紀大的產業工人在工作時感到倦怠,但卻在退休後突然開悟的?這麼說非常殘忍但卻是真實的。這與當工人的這件事毫無關係。產業勞工創造了我們的社會,並奉獻他們的人生建立家庭,發展社區。無論你做什麼,你的心智都必須保持機敏。「根據法蘭可博士的觀察,當一個人尋找人生的意義受阻時,可能會造成心理上的傷害。」7

那些眼睛炯炯有神,性格開朗的老年人已經找到了自己的瓦爾哈拉天堂,也就是他們自己生命的意義。