Chapter 20

20. Gratitude

I have a question. Why are so many human beings devoid of gratitude for their gift of life? Why are many people so willing to throw this gift away on frivolous things, things that have no enduring meaning? It is a curious question that has no simple answer. The beginning of any real understanding of the self begins with that inner journey: the quest to uncover a person’s meaning to life, a person’s purpose or mission.

The other day, as I was driving down a busy streets (carefully minding my own business, as the pundits like to say), a woman “appeared out of nowhere, driving like mad.” She drove across her red light as I was going through my green: you know the result! I struck her and we both tumbled to the ground. I have had, some would say, fortunately, very little exposure to the Taiwanese emergency services, and they are truly excellent. It was like a bad drama. As I began to strike the side of the woman’s vehicle, everything entered the twilight zone.1 My reality slowed down: my body shuddering in apprehension as it was thrown to the ground. Then the fog slowly began to clear: I couldn’t move: pain radiated down my neck, shoulders and chest. “Gosh,” I thought to myself, “this is not good.”

Within what appeared to be seconds, an ambulance attendant was beside me. He slowly propped me up and put a brace on my shoulder and arm. “Sir,” the man began rather pedantically, “I think that you have broken your collarbone.” Now, physically this is one of your worst nightmares -- the breakage of the bone linking the scapula and the sternum – ouch and ouch again. In my case, I have an extremely busy schedule (as do most of us) and I was soon going abroad for Christmas. I didn’t have time for the attendant pain, rehabilitation and schedule delays. At that moment, I had no choice; I was strapped into a gurney and shuttled off to the closest hospital. I was wheeled into a ward and touched and probed for a lengthy period of time -- all this devoid of painkillers until a diagnosis could be drawn, I might add. Finally an X-ray: I was soon facing a very efficient young doctor. The prognosis: I waited with bated breath.2 The result: bruising and trauma, but no break – hallelujah! Now, to say the least, I was “put off!” I felt the aggrieved party. The damage to my clothing and scooter were financially inconsequential. Recourse through insurance and the courts would just cost more expensive time. Your compensation would not be commensurate with your expenditure: “Poor me,” I thought, “How unfair!” I retained this notion for the next several days. Then, on my way to Wen-Hua High School, I stopped at a light. A young woman drove past me in a motorized wheelchair: her skin sallow, her form stooped. She was not old and obviously very sick. A wave of humility came over me: I was healthy and busy, with a slightly bruised body. In a word, gratitude: I felt that I had been spared great trauma “to continue my mission.” Others had not been so fortunate.

Many individuals when asked the question, “What do you want to do with your life?” just answer simplistically. “I just want to be happy.” Sadly, this is a nonsensical answer. Everyone wants to be happy. This is unless they are misanthropic or deranged. Happiness and peace are, however, innate. We do not have to search for them. They are within us. They are not so easily exposed, unfortunately. It is only through effort that interesting expertise and proficiency are achieved. Gurgling, “I just want to be happy” or even better, “I want to be rich,” are immature pronouncements without any understanding of how much work is required to achieve and, finally, uncover these states.

But, personal success resides with us all. It is the classic dilemma: if we act or do not act, we have still acted. If I am not prepared for a test and write it anyhow, I will still get some score (I had a professor who used to give you 20% for just writing your name). If I decide to not come to the exam room at all, I am guaranteed to get 0%. In either situation, you have acted. To change a behavioral pattern is not an easy thing. First you must be aware that you are flippantly spending your invaluable time; second, you must want to change and third, you must have a “plan of action.” We often hear, “I can’t change!” I do not believe this. I know what I know: I quit smoking and changed my lifestyle after twenty years. I suffered tremendously, but I changed: all is possible with will (and perhaps professional help).

20. 感恩

我有個疑問,為什麼那麼多人對生命這份禮物缺乏感激?為什麼很多人願意將這份禮物浪費在瑣碎、缺乏長遠價值的事物上?這個難以理解的疑問沒有簡單的答案。對自我的真正理解始於內在的旅程:一個揭開生命意義、目的或使命的探索之旅。

有天當我騎在繁忙的街道上時(正如專家喜歡所說的那樣專注於自己的事情中),一個女人突然「憑空出現,騎車像瘋子一樣。」當我這邊綠燈時,她在另一頭闖了紅燈急駛而過。你可以想像結果如何,我撞上她了,我們兩方雙雙跌倒在地上。有些人可能會說,我很幸運,過去幾乎沒有接觸過台灣的急診服務,他們真的很棒。這就像一齣糟糕的戲劇。當我撞到那女子的機車側面時,我對一切事感到意識模糊1。我的現實變慢了,當我被拋到地上時,身體因恐懼而顫抖。然後迷霧慢慢散去,我逐漸恢復清醒。我無法動彈,疼痛從我的脖子,肩膀和胸部蔓延下來。我心想:「天哪,這下不妙了。」

似乎在幾秒鐘之內,一名救護車人員就出現在我身旁。他慢慢將我撐起來,並固定好我的肩膀和手臂。「先生,」救護人員用有點賣弄的聲音說,「我想您可能跌斷您的鎖骨了。」此刻,對身體來說,這是你最糟糕的噩夢之一:連接肩胛骨和胸骨之間的骨折,除了痛以外還是痛啊!就我的狀況來說,我的行程安排十分緊湊(就如同大多數人一樣),而且當時我很快就準備出國過聖誕節了。我沒有時間留給隨之而來的疼痛、復健和行程延誤。可是在當下,我別無選擇。我被綁在擔架上,送到最近的一家醫院。我被推進病房,進行了很長一段時間的檢查。我補充一下,一直到診斷結果出爐,所有這些過程都沒有注射止痛藥。最後終於到了照X光時,我遇見了一位非常有效率的年輕醫生。照完X光後,我屏息等待診斷結果。2結果顯示,雖然有造成瘀青和創傷,但好在沒有骨折,哈利路亞!現在,最起碼可以說我的行程被耽擱了,我感到忿忿不平。我的衣服和機車的財務損失無關緊要,訴諸保險和法院訴訟只會花費更多寶貴的時間。你的報酬與你付出的並不對等。「哎,可憐的我,」我想,「這多不公平啊!」接下來的幾天我都抱持著這個想法。後來,在去文華高中的路上,我在號誌燈前停下來。一位年輕女子坐在電動輪椅上從我面前經過,她的皮膚發黃,身體駝背。她年紀不大,但顯然病得很重。一股羞愧之情突然湧現。當時的我雖然身體有些瘀青,但我仍身體健康且生活忙碌。總而言之,我心存感恩。我認為能夠倖免於難很幸運,我可以「繼續我的使命」,其他人也許沒有那麼幸運。

很多人被問到「你想為你的人生做些什麼?」時,都只是簡單地回答:「我只是想要快樂。」可惜的是,這個答案毫無意義。每個人都想要快樂,除非他們厭惡人類或者是精神錯亂。然而,快樂與和平是與生俱來的。我們不必去追尋它們,它們就在我們的心中。不幸的是,要發現它們並不容易,只有透過努力才能達到專業和純熟的程度。 只是嚷嚷著「我只是想要快樂」,或甚至更好的是,「我想變得富有」,都是不成熟的表示,不了解需要多少的努力,到最後才能達到這些狀態。

但是,個人的成功存在於所有人當中。有一個典型的困境:無論我們是否有採取行動,或者沒有採取行動,我們仍然是有行動。如果我沒有準備就去考試了,只要有寫答案,我仍然可能會有點基本分數(我曾遇過一位教授,只要你有寫上名字就給你20分)。如果我決定不去考試,那我保證會得到零分。在任何一種情況下,你都已經做出了行動。改變行為模式並非是件容易的事。首先,你必須意識到你正在輕率地浪費寶貴的時間。第二,你必須要改變。第三,你必須有一個「行動計劃」。我們經常聽到,「我無法改變!」但我一點都不這麼認為。就我所知道的:二十年後,我戒了菸,並改變了我的生活方式。期間我經歷過巨大的痛苦,但我改變了。有志者事竟成(也許也需要一點專業的協助)。