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




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。