Chapter 21 Faith: who must I believe in first?

第二十一章 信心:我首先必須先相信誰?

21. Faith: who must I believe in first?

I recently had the good fortune to be in Poland for Christmas. It was a lot like stepping into an anachronistic time. My impression of the Christmas season in my little village when I was young and our present day holiday is mutually exclusive: the former is filled with family and food and religion, the latter is filled with “glitz” 1 and things and more things. We have forgotten the universal and essential message of Christmas that transcends all religions: faith is paramount. When you are willing to step away from empiricism and simply believe, supernatural forces are brought to bear. As John Paul II (1920-2005) tells us, “Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you; all is very, very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence.”

What are active examples of faith? This is always a question that is omnipresent in my mind. The first person I must have faith in, of course, is the self, in me and my abilities. There is a philosophy that through faith events always “work themselves out,” in the end. Your prayers are, essentially, always answered. I would like to share an occurrence that recently happened to me. Things could have turned out very poorly, but for prayer and for action, they ultimately didn’t. The incident happened in Schiphol Airport2 in Amsterdam during my last travels. The high holidays are a frenetic time, especially amongst the travelling public. The human activity during Chinese New Year is a larger version of this movement, but the European version, when seen up close, is still impressive: people were everywhere! There was a major storm in Europe, in addition, so the airlines were constantly reorganizing their departure gates.

I had a “layover” of seven hours so there was ample time to find your point of departure and be on your way to your next destination. I looked at the electronic announcement board. My gate was Number E 14. The airport is massive. By the time I found the departure portal, the gate number had been changed. It was now gate Number E 18. “Not so bad,” I thought to myself, “at least they are in the same vicinity.” When I arrived, there were already a lot of people nestled down for the wait to board the short KLM flight to Krakow: gifts and bags and coats (Did I mention that it was very cold in the airport, and the out-of-control children?)

I am old enough to remember that children were not allowed to have a “temper tantrum”3 at an airport, a church or any public venue, for that matter, just because they felt like it. I maintain that disrespectful behavior on the part of children is always the parents’ fault. Having created life, you have a responsibility to socialize your young charges, don’t you? It speaks a lot to the lack of discipline and hard work in the present society.

Remember: I had a lot of time! As with all Western people, time is very important to me. I am always on time. I delved into my good book and began to float away with the Chinese treasure fleet.4

I suddenly looked up and everyone was gone. Gone where, you may ask? The gate had been moved, once again. It was now Number E 20. “Close, but no cigar”: this idiom means almost. I almost caught the plane. “But we announced it!” my fellow throng of passengers was told. I decided not to scream and shout like my confreres and just get a new flight. Not so easy: it is Christmas! I stood in the rebooking line for an hour. The man behind me had been at the airport for two days, the woman behind him for three: not good, not good.

When it was my turn, the airline employee didn’t begin with good cheer: She started with “Hmm, difficult,” so I repeated “Hmm, but solvable.” “Yes,” she responded. “If I were you, I would take the train.” Say what? Here is where my geography failed me. “How long would that be: two hours, like the flight?” “Two days: it stops in several waypoints including Berlin. But, I can put you on standby for the flight.5 There are no seats, but maybe you ‘would get lucky.’ However, if you miss the plane, you miss the train. They both depart at the same time.”

Christmas in Amsterdam loomed large in my consciousness. Great: I was very angry with myself – the great world traveler can’t even get on a connecting flight! Enough self-criticism: we need some prayer. I found myself a quiet spot and began to pray for acceptance. Whatever happened, I wanted to be at peace during the holidays.

Then, like the sentenced criminal, I trundled down to my gate: I explained my dilemma to one of the airport staff. She had kind eyes – very kind eyes. “Come back in ten minutes. There may be a seat!” My heart almost ‘leapt out of my chest.’ I had been granted a reprieve from my sins. I got on the flight and did have that peaceful Christmas, after all. The Buddha has a thought: “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.”

I am always reminded that the experience I have, even when the circumstances are poor, is very much of my own making. I frame my own reality. The people at the airport who were abusive towards the airport staff didn’t get a flight: I did. Was that only my good luck? I don’t think so. It was also because I calmed myself and decided to be as polite as possible, given the incompetence of the airline. It was Christmas, after all. My mother used to say, “You get far more with sugar than you do with salt,” meaning that people who are pleasant and thoughtful when solving a problem are readily helped by others. The opposite is equally true. “God helps those who help themselves.”6

21.信心:我首先必須先相信誰?

我最近很幸運有機會到波蘭過聖誕節。我就像走進一個錯亂的時空。小時候在我的小村莊度過聖誕節的印象和我們現在的聖誕節是截然不同的:前者充滿了家庭、食物和宗教,後者充滿了「浮華」1,除了很多東西,還是很多東西。我們忘了超越宗教疆界的聖誕節所傳達普世與基本的信息:信仰是至高無上的。當你願意放棄經驗主義而選擇純粹去相信一件事時,超自然的力量就會起作用。正如教宗若望‧保祿二世(1920-2005)告訴我們的那樣,「不要害怕進入未知的世界。只要無所畏懼地踏出去,知道我在你身旁,所以你不會受到任何傷害;一切都會非常、非常好。以完全的信仰和信心去做到這一點。」

什麼是信仰活生生的例子?這是一個我無時無刻捫心自問的問題。當然,第一個我必須信任的人就是自己,我必須對我自己和我的能力有信心。有一種哲學觀點主張,透過信仰,問題最終會獲得解決。事實上,你的禱告總會得到回應。我想分享最近發生在我身上的一件事。情況本來可能很糟糕的,但是在禱告和採取行動之後,最終沒有原本的那麼糟。這事發生於上次旅行在阿姆斯特丹史基浦機場2等待轉機時。假期的旺季是一段瘋狂的時間,特別是對正在旅行的眾多旅客而言。中國農曆新年期間的返鄉大遷徙比我眼前所見這個更壯觀,但若是近距離接觸,歐洲的情況仍然令人印象深刻,到處都是人!此外,歐洲有一場大風暴,因此航空公司也不斷更改他們的登機門。

當時我有七小時的轉機時間,找登機門並前往下一個目的地的時間很充裕。我看著電子看板,確認我的登機門是在E14。機場非常大。當我找到登機門時,發現登機門已經改過了,改到E18。「還不算太糟,」我內心想著,「至少在同一個地區。」當我抵達登機門時,已經有很多人坐著等待登機,準備搭乘荷蘭皇家航空飛往克拉科夫的航班,四處都是禮物、行囊和外套(我剛剛是否有提到機場非常冷,還有失控的孩童令人受不了?)

我年紀夠大,記得以前孩子是不許任性在機場、教堂或者任何公眾場所「鬧脾氣的。」3我始終認為,孩子表現出不尊重他人的行為是父母的過錯。你創造了新生命之後,就有責任教育你的下一代符合社會基本禮儀,不是嗎?這事件說明了當今社會缺乏紀律與努力的現況。

請記住,我當時有很多時間!如同所有西方人一樣,時間對我來說非常重要。我總是非常守時。我把頭埋進書裡,開始讀起我手上這本有趣的書,隨著書中的中國寶藏船隊一起去航行。4

我突然抬起頭時,發現大家都不見了。你可能會問,他們去哪裡了?登機門又再一次更動了,現在改到E20。這句英文諺語 ”Close, but no cigar” 指的就是「幾乎」,我就差那麼一點就能搭上飛機了。「但是我們確實有廣播了!」,服務人員跟搭乘同一班飛機的乘客這麼說。後來我決定不要像他們那樣大吵大鬧,想說再找新的班機搭乘就好。但這沒那麼簡單,現在可是聖誕節啊!我在重新預訂的隊伍排上了一小時。我身後的男人已經在機場待了兩天,在他後面的女人等了三天。這下情況可不妙。

終於輪到我的時候,航空公司的服務人員一開始態度不是很親切,她一開口就說:「嗯,這很難」,我接著說「嗯,但是可以解決的。」「是的,」她答道,「如果我是你,我會搭火車。」她說什麼?我的地理沒學好,沒什麼概念。「這會花多久的時間?兩小時嗎?就像搭飛機一樣?」「兩天。火車會停包括柏林在內的幾個站。但是,我可以安排你在候補登機名單上。5目前沒有座位,也許你會很幸運排上。但是,如果你錯過飛機,你也同時會錯過火車。因為兩者在同一時間出發。」

阿姆斯特丹的聖誕節景象浮現在我腦海。太棒了─我對自己感到非常生氣,我在世界到處旅行,經驗老到,竟然無法順利搭上轉乘的航班!別再自我批評了,我們需要一些禱告。我找了一個安靜的地方,並開始禱告,祈求接納。無論發生什麼事,我都想在假期期間保持內心的寧靜。

接著,我像一位被判刑的罪犯一樣,匆匆走到我的登機門。我向一位機場工作人員說明了我遭逢的難題。她有雙和善的眼睛,非常和善的眼睛。「請您十分鐘後再回來。我們可能會有一個空位!」我的心臟幾乎「要從我的胸口跳了出來」。我的罪責暫時獲得赦免。最終,我搭上了飛機,也確實度過了一個平和的聖誕節。佛陀提出一個想法:「平和來自內心,不要向外尋找。」

我總是藉由這個經驗提醒自己,即便情況很糟,最終結果都是取決自己做出的行動。我建構了自己的真實世界。在機場粗魯地對待地勤人員的乘客沒有搭上飛機,而我搭上了。那只是我的好運嗎?我不這麼想。這也是因為我冷靜下來並決定盡可能維持禮貌的緣故。儘管航空公司不夠專業是問題的原因,但畢竟這是聖誕節,很不容易安排。我的母親曾說,「你用糖比你用鹽所得到的回報要多出很多。」這意味著在解決問題時,保持禮貌且體貼的人容易得到別人的幫助,反之亦然。所謂「天助自助者。」6