December 2, 2010

The pain of a professional custom portrait artist

Actually, using the word of "pain" is not enough to describe my "suffering", "agony" would serve the purpose better.

As I put it in my profile description: "a professional artist by misfortune", I engaged in art career not by my choice, but my parents'. Even though I knew art was not my best choice, I was too young to fight with my parents. I was determined to change my career ages ago but very unfortunately, at this middle age of my life, due to many reasons (mostly my chronic health problems) I have not been able to accomplish this seemingly not so difficult task.

I don't necessarily "hate" art, but I do hate doing art when I have no inspiration. And since I understand that my inspiration is not for sale, and may not be sold, I believe that art should not be my profession. However unfortunately, I did something against my belief - spending 6 years doing portraits by commission. Even though I made my customers incredibly happy but deep inside my heart I knew I was in misery.

The pain of doing "professional art", especially custom art, is that as an artist, you are not in freedom of choosing subjects and forms. For 6 years I had to make living by copying people's faces, and was driven to the edge of being crazy numerous time! Almost every compliments such as "looks just like photograph" was like a sharp knife stabbed right into my heart.

Be fair to myself, not only I made the likeness close to 100%, I also made most of my portraits as artistic as I could. But still, the process was boring and life wasting.

I am in peaceful mood now by doing art education, and be able to have a slow pace of life which allow me to rebuild my health. Once a while I would receive emails from my previous customers asking me to do the portraits for them. I usually decline their requests very politely, but occasionally I decided to do some just for money, or, for save the desperation of kind customers. However as soon as I did it, I felt that "agony" of wasting life again.

I should never ever do it again, no matter for what kind of purpose (unless some magic happens one day that I would feel the fun of just copying reality, which is not likely at all)! Art, is not meant to be "customized", and "likeness" is not the purpose of art.

*The portrait of the boy was done during the 1998 Christmas, when I just learned to do pastel portraits. It remains my all time favorite. Guess I had some passion to do this by then.

November 9, 2010

Jack Bauer fact

It seems addictive to read Jack Bauer Fact:

November 4, 2010

Van Gogh - a priceless life

Self-Portrait, Spring 1887, Oil on pasteboard,...

Many people wondered why Van Gogh's "sunflowers" worth that much money, my answer is: they are NOT worth that much MONEY but they are priceless.

Today I discovered another website about Van Gogh's works. There were many paintings I have not seen before. Again, like over 20 years ago, that fresh striking impression just rushed before my eyes.

If I have to use just one sentence to describe why Van Gogh was one of greatest artists in history, I would say: because he simply re-created his life through his works.

Vase with 12 sunflowers
Vase with 12 sunflowers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It is my understanding that art is not really about subject matters, but “form”, which includes color, line, shape, brush strokes, etc.. Through this form, artists re-create their life. So from this perspective, what we see in Van Gogh’s paintings are NOT sunflowers, NOT crop fields, orchards, etc., instead, what we see is Van Gogh himself in person - his grief, his despair, his painful struggling for life.

Van Gogh had a very painful personal life journey, died at 37, yet, he desired life, fervently, as his paintings tell us. His paintings are all his life's continuation, so Van Gogh never died!

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November 3, 2010

Hard time - a test for real friendships?

Friendship in Uzbekistan (Sigismund von Dobsch...Image via Wikipedia

I understand some time all of us got some tough time and may not share every detail of our personal difficulties with our friends, even the closed ones. And I understand most time we don't even want to share - we rather keep our troubles with ourselves in order to protect our personal pride. However, if I knew one of my dear friends were in serious trouble and need help, I would not leave her/him alone. I would stand side by side with her/him, or if I were busy with my life, I would still once a while send my comfort or encouragement, to let her/him know that I am there, etc.. because I understand, that when in serious troubles, all we need is hope, encouragement, and the belief that one day, we will get out of shadow.

Well, it appears to me that not all people thinking like this way. For years I happened to be the one in the trouble water and many of my friends - a few of them had friendship with me for decades - faded away from my life. The darkness that overwhelmed me was intense and long term, I understand many of them were just out of patience. So I let it go. But a few of them were really close to me and I used to devoted lot of emotion and energy to them. So it hurts.

Nevertheless I still believe what I believed - real friends would willing to share everything, light or dark, happiness and bitterness. However, when I shared this idea with some people, I was told that I required too much.

People say if you found that everybody is having problem with you, the problem is usually yours. But I don't think this saying can explain my case. I refused to think it was my problem for losing friendships, because I never ever tried to put my personal trouble to my friends' shoulders. All I did "wrong" was expecting some comfort or mental support, which I totally deserved. But of course, my expectation went in vain.

There is Chinese saying that your hard time is a real test for friendship. I found it was true. Sadly, many of my dear friends failed the test.

I move forward.
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October 31, 2010

"The making of steel"

"The making of steel" was a Soviet Union communist fiction once very popular in China. Despite of its communist propaganda, the passion of the protagonist was striking. I watched the movie and read the book, love both of them, but never know there was a tv drama of it. Here is the theme song at the end of show which I am deeply moved:

"Red" songs

Many of Chinese folk art styles have been lost but some of them were preserved in early Communist music, especially during 50s, right after Red China was born. Lots of Chinese people hate those songs because of the lyrics are all so "red", but I somehow can separate the music from lyrics (I pay little attention to any lyrics when I listen to songs of all different style)

October 22, 2010

Quotes by Liu Xiaobo (3)

Plato. Luni marble, copy of the portrait made ...Image via Wikipedia

From chapter One of "Mist of metaphysics": Human wisdom covered by mist

When myths cannot solve human problems, we ask the nature; when nature fails to answer we turn to God (abstract myth); when God doesn't save us we again go back to the nature - our human nature, we question ourselves. p50
(by yunyi: so the path is: nature - God - human itself)

Logic, analysis, experiment, all of these are not the means to discover truth, but the means of proving truth. (true) Discovery lies in imagination and intuition, which characterized by sudden enlightenment. If logic is companied by mathematics, experience is companied by physics, the company of intuition is art. The highest achievement of human intelligence is not rational, but intuitional. p50

Irrational state is not a state of animal. The higher level of irrational state is the life in its full bloom. Without this state there is no creativity. ... Life starts with music and ends with music. p51

The development of ontology and methodology was companied by the development of evaluation of human to himself. Or in other words, this self evaluation works as a latent layer along the development of ontology and methodology. ... the disappointment of human toward himself is disillusioning of the myth that human creates for himself. ...

Totemism, worship to God, all by nature are the worship to human himself. ...the antagonistic relation between God and human is religionized relation among social classes of human society.

If during the time of Kant the attack man did for himself mainly aimed to reason, after Darwin the attack was/is emotional - it is not only the consciousness of the limitation of reason, but also emotional disappointment toward mankind itself. But, I still prefer a depravation caused by the courage of facing the truth, rather than a sublimation by avoidance. Pessimism is a great mentality, without it, we won't know even until today that we are just human, not God.

The development of western philosophy is a process from the mixture of human and God in classic Greek to the God only theology of middle age, and finally end to contemporary natural and humanist philosophy. ...Through this journey, philosophy changed from inquiry of origin, purpose and meaning of the universe to a much "less metaphysical" problems, such as the possibility of those inquiries; which methods we should follow in terms of logic; how to distinguish valid and false, right and wrong, etc.. In other words, philosophy changed from the study of nature itself to study of natural science. The center subject of philosophy changed from ontology to epistemology and methodology. If we look at this process from the perspective scientific truth, western philosophy went from absolute truth to relative truth, from the self-evident rational truth to empiristic truth. p55

Progress, is not a journey toward perfection, to summum bonum, but a never ending course of referring and comparison. p63

Skepticism and conviction are two opposite polar of life, there is no bridge in between. Skepticism is a dark ghost of western thought, gravedigger of metaphysics, it makes all attempt for ultimacy an illusional babble, shakes the roots of all massive philosophical systems. ...Conviction is a torch of human thought, backbone of human spirit, basis of metaphysics. It always gives meaning for human to live on this meaningless earth, gives light toward happiness at dead ends. It is this very skepticism continues to impact metaphysics; it is this very conviction makes metaphysics to continue. P68

In classical Greek myths, "Gods" were fabrication of imagination; in pre-Socrates school, "Gods" were fabrication of reason. Former is super-nature of "unnatural", later is super-nature of "natural". In terms of "super nature", both presented the same thing - metaphysical being. p68

When human experiences some sublime desire or emotion inside his/her life, but cannot land this desire to a substantial object, this desire or emotion becomes stronger, more insistent, and more mysterious. Thus human can only use spiritual creativities as substitutes for such desire, such as metaphysical being, religion Gods or aesthetic experience. This kind of experience toward "nothingness", "unknown", "ultimacy" or "eternity" is truly the summit of all human intellectual activities. p76

If human doesn't have art but only science, science will be plague of mankind. Because human has disposition of destruction and despotism, and if there were no restrictions, human will try his best to achieve this nature, and science is the best way to help him to succeed. Democracy and art are not only the companies of science, but the restriction to science, preventing it from being used by human's desire for power. p77

By metaphysics, human pursues a fixed form for universe, society and life; by religion, human pursues a eternal faith, trying to find a support and goal for life; by art, human pursues an instant satisfaction, and after that this instant becomes eternity because of its unrepeatable unique attribute. By art, human solely attempts to get close to life, and fulfill life itself. p78

The metaphysics of Plato is poetic and musical, the illusion of "Republic" did not prevent him from experience the tragedy of life. His dualism can be taken as contradictory of reason and aesthetism. Maybe Plato really reached his "eidos" by his fascination, but by such fascination, I found his "Republic" is falling. p78

Comparing with the Dionysius' euphoria experience which Greek tragedy conveys, classical greek metaphysics is aneamic, a coward moan made by a weak scholar, an avoidance to the tragedy of reality. p83

Mathematics is the soul of classical philosophy (just like physics is modern empirism and modern scientific philosophy). Primitive totem is not much different from metaphysical being in term of ontology. The difference between classical Greek philosophy and primitive totemism is: primitive man hold his piety to totem only emotionally, not methodologically and logically; metaphysics, on the other hand, with support of logic deduction (provided by mathematics), made human not only believe the existance of metaphysical being, but also with support of reason.

In spite of the importance of Greek philosophy in human history, in spite of its noble crown given by those scholars and philosophers, I personally believe, maybe naively or blindly, it is virtually a philosophical religion. All its meaning, value and mistakes are all about one fact: it was new born at the time, even if it's fragile but it's new and complete life form. Its imagination and confidence is overly impracticable, narcissist. It innocently and truthfully believed in itself, even though it resided (still resides) in mist. p90

October 21, 2010

Jack Bauer, a bloody "God of Justice"

Saving the World: Jack Bauer + Mister ScoochImage by K!T via Flickr

I have never been fond of any type of EXTREME patriotism, nor anti-terrorism, such as the TV show "24" conveys, but I had been enjoyed watching this show like nothing before. 8 seasons, 192 episodes total, I finally finished watching them with a feeling of emptiness. This is truly the best action show I ever watched, albeit I have not watched many.

Living in chronic health condition and often feel inadequate for simple tasks, I found it perfectly meaningful to indulge myself into all those impossible missions and surreal heroes.
The show is incredibly intense, fast paced with complicated twisted story lines. I highly enjoyed all of these, include many of supporting rules like Nina, Tony and finally the best Chloe, however, what really stroke me was the protagonist's "extreme" temperament, his almost faithful insistence on "justice" and "truth" - Jack Bauer (an agent of "CTU") does not negotiate! He has passion for vengeance! And he is always right and he always wins!

"Revenge" has never been a concept supported by any cultural ideologies or religions, but it is such a instinct nature of human that no one can deny the experience of it. Since I am from a culture that is good at self denial, maybe just as good as or, even better than any other cultures, plus my own experience tells me things quite differently from those boring moral teachings, I found this show extra attractive.

Another striking element of this show was that Jack Bauer was always alone: he was often alone during his missions, he was always left alone after the missions. He was easily misunderstood by government and his country, even sometime by his fellow agents. He saved the country millions times and he saved millions people's lives, but the country and people still hated him, still tried as hard as possible to eliminate him.
"Deja vu!" One against all! For me, this is another perfect truth in real life.

One negative aspect I found from Jack Bauer is that he virtually was just a tool of government. He was used every time when the country was in needs of him (once the country even handed him to terrorists for death, in order to save "millions people's lives"). And after missions impossible were done, he was not protected at all and often had to run alone. For his job, Bauer paid immeasurable price - he lost love ones and could not have a normal life. But still, he was loyal to his country, put his life aside from his missions, just like a perfect model of patriots.
This reminds me communist government back in China. They are doing exactly the same thing in their propagandist art. As an individualist, I despise such political propaganda.

Nevertheless, this show overall is a tremendous success. I am in love with Jack Bauer, and Kiefer Sutherland will never be forgotton as Jack Bauer - a bloody "God of justice"!

October 19, 2010

Quotes by Liu Xiaobo (2)

Liu XiaoboImage via Wikipedia

Mist of metaphysics seems to be a serious philosophical work. This post together with the previous one are both quotes only from the introduction part of the over 400 page book. I am profoundly impressed by his independent thinking style and the depth in humanity he probes in his book.


About death:
"If there is anything real but totally unrelated to any of our subjective desire, it is DEATH. "
"Maybe, all the mysteries of life lie in our attitude towards death. "

"Man not only
recognize the limitation of reality and desire to transcend, but also recognize the fact that such desire to transcend will never come true. The former attitude is self comforting, the later is autosadism. ...The
attitude of
self comforting creates myth, illusion, etc., and the attitude of autosadism on the other hand smashes these myths or illusions into pieces. This is a everlasting battle, perhaps last forever until the end of mankind. "

About the motive of life:
"To make the mortal life immortal is "motive of transcendence"; to satisfy oneself as much as possible during the mortal lifespan is "motive of reality (mundaneness?)". Whereas the motive of reality is more fundamental to our life, it is the motive of transcendence that decides our choice of life. "

"What really counts for our life? How can we live a fulfilled meaningful life? Should we focus on our reality, or work hard for our next immortal life? Man often wonder back forth, pondering in confusion. ...As long as we are not forced to choose, I think any choices are valid. ... to be a good housewife is not necessarily easier than to be a head of a country; a value of beggar's life is not necessarily less than a of a president. The key factor is: whether the decision is made by yourself; to what extent you have accomplished your choice. The freedom of choice is a virtual measurement of the value of life."

About Chinese philosophy:
."..the nature of Chinese classical philosophy doesn't lie in the fact of its pursuing of "Tao", but its "dictatorship" to Chinese people's thoughts, its tendency of putting the value of transcendence as a only standard for real life and imposing this value to everyone. If there have been two counter forces - the value of transcendence and value of reality (mundaneness?) existed in the history of western culture, there has never been a counter force existed in Chinese history." (I cannot agree more!)

"A man who is able to transcend himself is a man can transcend anything. However, there is no such man ever existed. What makes man better or more special than other species is, that a man has consciousness and desire to transcend, albeit they are is merely consciousness, merely desire. All intellectual creations of mankind are related to such desire."

About ideal:
"The reason that ideal can push a man forward is not because of ideal ifself, regardless of how perfect the ideal is; nor because of the man's hope that one day the ideal would come true, regardless of how much he believes; it is because of the fact that ideal can push a man to be conscious more deeply about the misery of reality, to provoke dissatisfaction and denial toward reality and himself. "p34

The nature of ideal is not the fulfillment of life, but the emptiness of life; not the transcendence of self, but the impossibility of such mission; not the capability of predicting and designing the bright future of mankind, but the uncontrollability of the unknown future. ...the tragedy of not being able to transcend mankind itself is the nature of ideal.

"The ideal that denies the weakness of human is fascination, illusion. This illusion was the sole premise of Chinese ancient ideal personality. ... This ideal leads only to hypocrisy. In other words, as soon as an ideal no longer provokes man's more profound consciousness about misery of reality, weakness of human kind, this ideal loses its value. ...Only those who use ideal as reference for their full devotion to the tragedy of reality can reach the opposite polars of life - the darkness of abyss, the radiance of heaven. ...It is only in the process of reaching these two absolutely opposite points, life can be fulfilled."

About metaphysics (philosophy):
"Metaphysics functions as self-comforting to human. It is a a power of emotion, rather than a power of reason."

"Metaphysics expresses the desire of self transcendence of human by an its abstract form."

About religion & science:
"The imperishable faith of human derives from his instinctive pursuing for the next life (immortal life). To some extent, the enlightenment of science and its victory over religions since renaissance is just an illusion. In terms of the value of mankind, religion is not seconded by science. Believing that science is omnipotent is a new religion. ...The desire of transcendence is surrealistic, cannot be proven, but it hold value of life. Religion will not defeat science, science will not defeat religion. "(p26)

Metaphysics and desire for possession

"Desire for possession is human nature, like foods, inevitable and unchangeable, regardless of good or evil. Morality cannot judge such desire. We often describe the ambition of Macbeth as "evil", but the power of this tragedy is beyond such judgement. ...(political) Power is desire for possession, thought and affection are also desire for possession. Because we acknowledge such nature, we set restrictions in all realms to control our desire. Democracy, freedom of speech, free choices between personal relationships, these are all set for restrict our desire for possession, set for restrict political, philosophical and emotional monism. Again, without restriction, everyone will become dictator. It's nothing to do with morality. ...

"If an emperor is the dictator of politics, metaphysics is the dictator of thoughts. The nature of these two are the same, they are driven by the desire for possession, desire for control and domination. "

About Chinese intellectuals:
"One of characters of Chinese culture was provoking human desire for power as much as possible. "The path to become intellects" was almost the only way to reach this goal. ...The worst tragedy of Chinese ancient intellects was that they didn't use intellectual means - the one that differs from political means ( I suppose "intellectual means" means "knowledge") to conquer (society). That's why not only they (Chinese intellects) did not conquer people, but they were also assimilated into emperors' political power. Thus they lost the value of being intellects and became subsidiary part of emperors' political power . Lack of independent pursuits, lack the spirit of doubt and criticism, possessing little of conscience toward society and people, these, are the primary characteristic traits of Chinese ancient intellects. From this perspective, we can say, that during thousands years history of Chinese feudalism, there were no such a social class of independent intellects ever existed, nor a social class of vendor/merchants, there were only two classes: rulers and the ruled... Those who singing, writing and painting, seemingly courteous intellects were virtually ruled slaves: narrow minded, blindly obedient and weak. ...Chinese ancient culture is utilitarianist. It is not abstract, not mysterious, but its despotism cannot be paralleled. "
(I cannot agree more!!!!!!!!!!!!)

"As human evolves, the individual consciousness wakens, the potential of individuals develops, everyone has his/her own power and thoughts, so the battle of rulers and the ruled finally point to one aim: no one can rule others, the ultimate life goal is each person's self governing, self achievement. "

"Confucius was the most successful ruler of Chinese society. His thoughts dominated Chinese people's mind for over 2 thousands years, until now. Further more, his thoughts has been instilled inside Chinese people's blood. "

"The lesson from Cultural Revolution is: 1. for China, the worst historical falling back is the reviving of feudalist ideology; 2, the cause of the endless misery of Chinese people is not exterior, but interior - inside every single Chinese him/herself." (I cannot agree more!)

"We (Chinese people) have to confront, that this "evergreen" despotism, dictatorship, idolatry are all made by Chinese people's own hands. We cannot put the responsibility of the poverty and ignorance of Chinese people to a few dictators, nor to Confucius or Mencius, but the choice of every single Chinese - it is Chinese people who chose emperorship. ..." (!!!)

"The concept of God and deified science both derived from the same human psyche: we will be saved."

"... human is the best tool to produce fallacy..."

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Strength vs. vulnerability

The real strength lies in the acceptance of our vulnerability.

October 14, 2010

Quotes by Liu Xiaobo (1)

Liu XiaoboLiu Xiaobo is the Nobel Peace Prize winner of 2010 who is currently in jail in mainland China. I don't know much about him but just discovered one of his books "Mist of metaphysics" and it appears very thoughtful to me, also a bit pessimistic.
Below are some quotes from the book (my own English translation):

About metaphysics:
"Metaphysics is a compound of ways of our thinking and existence, an entirety of our behavior and motive."

"All knowledge of mankind is process of questions and answers. The history of thought is the history of questions."

"Whereas everything that man creates is for transcending his own limitation, the limitation of existence itself decides that he could never break the boundary."p6

"Discovery is creativity, common sense is imitation."

Space and Time:
"...the importance of time and space lies in the fact that they are the measurement of our life, the reference for the meaning of life - which work as a leverage for our survive will."

The value of thinkers:
"The value of a thinker is not about what problems he solves, but what kind of problems/questions he presents, because a new question means a new start and new development. Even if he does solve problems, the solutions must be open and provocative, must conceive new problems/questions"

About human wisdom, the separation of human and nature:
"If we ask: why under God's supervise Adam and Eve still stole the forbidden fruit, choosing the misery of knowing instead of the happiness of unknown? Was it really because of the temptation of Snake? I think, this temptation of snake was not the true cause of this action, the true cause was our human nature. And the reason that we created such a story to put the responsibility to others (snake) was because we have fear - we fear we have such kind of instinct. Indeed, giving a outside cause to our human tragedy can more or less alleviate the cruelty of this destiny." p14

About Time - the value also the limitation of life:
"The Buddhist concept of reincarnation is an avoidance of time, a murder of the sense of time. This avoidance of time creates a psychological satisfaction, a triumph over death, but the price is all our current life. Being apathetic to time is being apathetic to life. If all our hardship was caused by our previous life, we should not fight, be completely obedient to whatever come to us. Those whoever lack vitality, would also lack the sense about time. The sense of time is the sense of life... " p22

Death and life

"Without the awareness of death, everything is ordinary, trivial. It is only because death is stalking us that the world is an unfathomable mystery."
---Carlos Castaneda

September 22, 2010

"Perspective truth" - quote from "Reason and Intuition"

"Now we can understand why there are only perspectives of truth (as propounded by Nietzsche). Each person’s truth will be constrained by his empirical experience and hence his belief systems. And it is his empirical experience and belief systems that will determine his use of reason. It is his empirical experience and belief systems that will determine whether his reason is exercised safely within an acceptable ideology, or whether he has the courage to think the impossible."

Reason and Intuition

August 14, 2010

"Mom, stop pretending to know something you don't!"


Image by xdanger via Flickr
"Mom, stop pretending to know something you don't!"
Another day in my art class one of my students (12 year-old) said this to her mother. I just cannot forget it.

For thousands years, being completely obedient to parents has been #1 moral principle for Chinese people. Disobeying your parents is like "taboo" to Chinese people. The most important teaching of Confucianism is "Xiao", which mean obeying and serving parents unconditionally. By my opinion, before China opened the door to the world over a century ago, all Chinese kids had been treated as lowest class human being since the beginning of their lives until they were parents themselves (upon the time they of course were still their parents' "slaves" but they also got the right to enslave their own kids as they wished). That's why one of Chinese authers Lu Xun screamed out "Save the children!" (in his most famous short stories collection "Call to arms" during early of last century).

Of course, situations have been changing since a century ago, but this tradition - the unconditional responsibility of children to their parents - still has been carried on (more or less) by Chinese people to wherever they go, because it was considered as a iconic culture element - without it, you are not a Chinese.

In my art classes most students are Chinese Americans. They are influenced by 2 quite different cultures - Chinese tradition from their parents and American culture from schools, or anywhere else outside of their families. However, by my observation they are 90% Americanized, while their parents - who are mostly the first generation immigrants - are mostly still very conservative in terms of Chinese heritage.

The parents of one of my students in painting class seemed to be one of the most traditional Chinese couples I have meet in this country (USA). They "love" their daughter, but they could not help to keep pushing her to the "perfection" they aimed for her on everything. They usually stayed in my classes, sometime the mother sometime the father (I let the parents stay if they don't have places to go), watching their daughter's performance even closer than I did.
One day the mother was in class, highly unsatisfied with her daughter's painting, could not help to stand beside daughter and gave her instructions of doing this and that. Of course her daughter was extremely annoyed and kept complaining and fighting back by refusing to follow her mother's "command". "I don't want to do it. If you like, you do it!" She said. To my surprise, the mother grabbed the brush painted couple of small things on the painting. I was seriously worried at the moment that daughter might be just so pissed off and destroy the canvas. But she didn't.
Feeling somehow obligated for some detailed instruction, I picked a brush to help the daughter to fix somthing on her painting. I mixed color and painted on canvas and mother immediately said "see, now it's right". Unfortunately, before she finished the sentence, I realized the color was NOT quite "right" and threw some words like "oops, that's not quite right." And the daughter just quickly captured the moment and said it very loudly: "Mom, please stop pretending...."

Hearing the daughter saying that so loudly, I was somehow relieved. I saw her acting like a brave girl who was able to be truthful to herself, regardless her selfish and demanding mother. Another time I heard some other students referred this daughter as a little "strange", "easy to get irritated" person, but I believe as long as she could be brave enough to let herself stand up in front of her parents like that, she will be fine.

This is just one small happening but it does tell me that something fundamental about Chinese people is changing. I cannot imagine I say the same thing to my parents when I was 12. And I never heard any of my contemporaries said similar things to their parents at this early age. I am just very pleased to witness such an rebellious action taking place in a traditional Chinese family.
And this happening undoubtedly enhanced my belief in "equality" and "liberty". As soon as we taste them, we cannot live without them.

*The picture is one of illustrations from a Confucian teaching book - the part that teaches how women should behave and serve their parents and husbands, which I have not bothered reading any yet. But the art works were excellent though.

July 7, 2010

"Two wrongs do not make a right" - a quote from move "Flawless"

"What's that old phrase about two wrongs a right do not make? That's nonsense! Sometime to make something right you have to do something just as wrong. ...oh yes, my cost it's worth 100 life times in jail."

--- Mr. Hobbs (from movie "Flawless")

July 6, 2010

Childhood and self-esteem

Agatha ChristieImage via Wikipedia

Agatha Christie said: "One of the luckiest things that can happen to you in life is, I think, to have a happy childhood."

If we take "love" - love in any form: romantic, family and friendship - as a proof of our life existence, love is certainly the most important aspect of life, because only if we appreciate our existence in the first place, are we able to fulfilled it. The more love we receive, the more meaningful and joyful we feel our life is. That’s’ why we all desperately search for love.

Unfortunately, all love we received from others is not completely secure. We could lose our lovers, friends and family members. Or, even worse, we could try very hard but still could not get others’ love. However, one kind of love we could never lose - if we ever get it – is the love from ourselves: self-esteem. A person with a true self-esteem would feel the most confident, capable and emotional secure in his/her entire life, because self-esteem is unconditional, which means we do not have to worry about losing it.

However, self-esteem doesn't come to us with life itself. Many people do not have it, or many people have to work very hard to get it. This difference, by psychological studies also my own observation, is mostly caused by our different childhood.

If all love we received from others are insecure, one type of love from others is different - the love from parents. The love from parents has the same nature as self-love – unconditional. Because of this nature of "unconditional", it is secure, so we don’t have to worry about losing it. Whoever have happy childhood, receive this unconditional love from their parents (or whoever raise them), would gain self-esteem easily from the beginning of their life. And because (it seems) that things we learned earlier in our life would usually stay firmer with us in our later life, these people (who received unconditional love from parents) would naturally hold their self-esteem during their entire life. And on other hand, those who do not receive such kind love during their childhood would have issues with self-esteem during their entire life. Some might eventually learned, some might not.

This is how I feel about Agatha Christie’s a few words which tells a universal truth of life.

Of course there are still exceptions, because life is complicated. Even those who have happy childhood might have to face challenge of their confidence under some specially circumstances, or, those who have unhappy childhood or even no childhood at all could end up knowing the best about how to love themselves. However, generally speaking, a happy childhood is a solid foundation of our self-esteem - the most important ingredient of our personal life happiness.

July 3, 2010

Fantasy vs. Imagination

After I post the Chinese version of "Fantasy vs. true stories" in my Chinese blog, one of comments mentioned about a quote by Miro (abstract painter):
Imagination is about something possible but didn't happen, fantasy is about something impossible. (It might not be the original quote)
And the guy who left comment went further saying that "too much fantasy may do more harm than good for people because it encourages people to be phony, but imagination is always valuable and important for our creativities, such as in art, mathematics or other science".
I thought he pointed out something very important. And I totally agree with him. It also explained why I could not really enjoy fantasy and why I like mystery fiction so much: I don't care about things that are impossible; those seemingly realistic scenarios in mystery books really show true brilliant imaginations.

July 2, 2010

Fantasies vs. True Stories

Lorelai and Hummingbirds Mermaid Fairy Fantasy ArtImage by Glimmerfae via Flickr

I can never really enjoy any fantasy stories (maybe I will try harder in future). The reason is simple, the true life stories are far more fascinating than any stories made by human's imaginations.

When we write stories, we are often concern about their "genuineness", because we don't want our stories look "fake", but reality doesn't work like this way - it only follows whatever happens. And the result is often beyond our understanding and our imagination.
That's why reality often looks fake; that's why when many people disbelieve some very simple clear truth, it only shows how limited our imagination is, how poor our understanding is.

That's why for me, life itself is the best fantasy work ever created.

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July 1, 2010

Personal Life Experience vs. Reason

Things Couldn't Be BetterImage via Wikipedia

During my years' of CFS, I had an experience: whenever I had to mention my health condition, many people simply didn't believe it; whenever I mentioned to children, they accepted it without hesitation. Later I realized, the reason those people didn't believe me was simply because what I said did not apply to their own life experience, and for those children, simply because inside their blank mind they could not find any existent experience to against my assertion.

So I realized, that personal life experience can be "friend" of our reasoning, also can be "enemy", depend how we use it. If we use it as one of sources for our understanding of human nature, a rich life experience can certainly make our thoughts richer, makes us more open-minded; but if we use it as a the ONLY source for our "reasoning", it will certainly limit our vision, make us narrow minded.

Or, should I say, personal life experience without the guide of reason can only limit our thought; only with the guide of reason, it can go beyond personal, becomes knowledge and leads us to open mind, to wisdom.

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June 30, 2010

A quote from "Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen"

'Image via Wikipedia

"Liberty consists in being able to do anything that does not harm others"
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June 27, 2010

Homosexuality and tolerance

Youth females are depicted as surrounding Sapp...Image via Wikipedia

The people's attitude toward homosexuality is NOT about "tolerance", but opening mind and stepping out from our ignorance about mankind himself.

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A quote by Newton

Isaac NewtonImage via Wikipedia

"I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me."

June 26, 2010

Extraordinary vs. Mediocre

spuren im sandImage by manfred-hartmann via Flickr

Extraordinary people know why they are extraordinary yet they are humble; mediocre people do not recognize their mediocrity yet they are arrogant.

June 24, 2010

A "red joke" I could never forget

There are many funny "red jokes" went around in China after the country was opened during 1980s. If I have to pick one for the best I have to go for this one, even though I am not crazy about sex joke. Below is my rewriting in English:

1984, Mrs. Thatcher visited China. People all understood about the importance of her meeting with the Chairman of China Deng Xiao Ping as a milestone in the history of relationship between 2 countries, but what people didn’t know about, was that the personal chemistry between 2 leaders - it also went wild.

In the same night of that meeting, Deng went straight to Hotel Wang Fu Jing where Mrs. Thatcher stayed. He asked the lady at the front desk about Thatcher room numbers and immediately rushed to the room.

Half hour later, the front desk lady saw Deng came out with some sort of excitement she never saw before. As Deng walked by, she held breath and overheard some words she could not understand for a moment:

(In Chinese with Deng's heavy Sichuan accent!) " Hallelujah! This time, Communism finally pressed Capitalism underneath!"

Soon after Deng disappeared, Mrs. Thatcher came out. With a pale face and upset expression, she whispered. Her words were also captured by the same lady who understood English just as well:

“What a f**k! Capitalism had not yet reached her climax but Communism already died!”

Life & game

Chess game and play clock with the pieces in t...Image via Wikipedia

Life is like a game, if we focus on winning, we cannot play our best. Only if we focus on game itself, focus on live life itself, we can be the final winners.
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June 2, 2010

Religion - as metaphor or as "truth"

Voltaire and religionImage via Wikipedia

When religion is taken as metaphor, it represents inspiration – imagination and hope. By this way, religion creates love and courage; when religion is taken as “truth”, it represents ignorance - closed minds and biased reasoning. As consequence, it creates hatred and eventually, disasters.
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May 31, 2010

A sign of open mind

This statement just jumped into my mind:

Believe in yourself until you are proven wrong.
I understand this statement in aspects:
1, honesty: you are truthful to yourself;
2, capability of reasoning. You need a functioning rational mind to reach the reasonable assumptions based on observations;
3, objective: this is the natural outcome of the rational mind --- a rational mind would guarantee the recognition and admission of your own mistakes.

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Tolerence - the measurement of physical and mental health

Kwakwaka'wakw people in a wedding ceremony, br...Image via Wikipedia

If we take the tolerance on different types of foods as ONE OF measurements of our physical health, the tolerance on different cultures and ideas could also be one of measurements of mental health.

By my own observation, most Chinese people oversea who accept western foods are those with great physical health. On the contrary, those who do not or cannot accept western foods are either physically unhealthy or, at older age (not those Chinese Americans who grew up here, but those who immigrated here at relatively older age). So if my observation is valid, the same rule can be applied to our mentality: the healthy minds are always open to different ideas or cultures with objective understanding, not rejection.
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May 15, 2010

Differences within human being

It is not hard to figure out the common factors in our human nature, but it IS difficult to discover what made us differently.

May 7, 2010

Lu Xun

Ningbo peopleImage via Wikipedia

Lu Xun, a writer who lived in early of last century, criticized Chinese traditional culture in a way like nobody else. He was almost the only one I consider as a true individual thinker during modern Chinese history. He was called "Nietzsche in China".
In one of his articles he mocked about someone who tried to write a book about chinese history:
(These are not the original words but what i remembered)
Why do we need to write a BOOK about Chinese history? that's a waste. 2 sentences will do it: the eras that everybody were enslaved happily, and the eras that everybody desperately wanted to be slave but couldn't.

I think this explained how difficult for the democracy to be prevailed China.

The link of Lu Xun in Wikipedia:

Love relationship

" Without your love, a love I need, it’s ...Image by Parvin ♣( OFF for a while ) via Flickr

Any kind of love relationships (family, romantic and friendships) are a kind of life form, as soon as being made, they need care to stay healthy and alive.
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April 30, 2010

Materialism, is communism the one to blame?

The Chinese Dragon, Fu dog and incense compris...Image via Wikipedia

We might have an impression that Chinese people somehow seem to be more materialist than people from other countries. I myself is (still) a Chinese, but I don't deny this fact. It does match my own observation.

However, if people think this materialism has something to do with communism (as I often heard from media, especially conservatives’ propaganda), I would disagree. I believe lots of Chinese people's "passion" for money has nothing (or little) to do with communism, but EVERYTHING (or mostly) to do with Chinese cultural tradition.

Here is what I think. Two of most influential Chinese classical philosophies - Confucianism and Taoism, which dominated Chinese ideology for over 2 thousands years (maybe 3 thousands. Taoism's origin could be much earlier than Lao Zhi's life - the author of Tao De Jing) - both focused on practical issues: Taoism is about individual happiness and Confucianism is about social stability. There is no concept of "God", "divinity" (Monotheism) and "pursuing truth" (science) in Chinese culture. Even later on China had Buddhism come from India, it still focused on personal happiness and quickly made it merged with Taoism and developed some Chinese style Buddist sects, such as Zen.

Certainly both Taoism and Confucianism did not teach people to be greedy, but one important thing that both of these ideas contain is: there is no need to question or looking for anything other than the issues about practical life.

Taoism can be taken in a very positive way, such as obeying our nature, making harmony with our life, but I believe only minority people through Chinese history took it this way (mostly artists and poets), most Chinese people understand Taoism simply as a somatic regimen - they over care about their physical life form, even in a selfish way.

That's why when China opened the door to the world during 80s of last century (I believe that was the second time. The first time was 1980, opium war, China's door was "kicked" open. ), these ancient ideas just could not wait to embrace capitalism, made many people's materialism which had been half covered by traditional morality finally "unleashed".

This is why even though China is under communist government, it could still make such a seemingly "anti-communist" economic system – capitalist markets. And making money to be rich is almost the only life goal to many Chinese people.

About Communism, not only it did not encourage materialism, but also it encouraged a "puritanical" life style. During 50s, China experienced a very anti-materialism social movement - almost everyone lived in very poor material condition but zealous mental enthusiasm (similar middle age Europe) . Of course, needless to mention, it did more harm than good. Chinese people lived in very poor condition until 1980s.

So again, by my opinion, it (materialism) is not communism's fault. It is some seemingly charming cultural heritage's fault. Or, even deeper than that: the nature of greed, which exists in all human being.
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April 28, 2010

"fit in", bully, and culture revolution

English: Chinese poster with Marx, Engels, Len...Image via Wikipedia

I come to this country for individualism. It’s been almost 15 years. Now, I have to say, yes, there is much more room for individualists than in China, but, still not as much as I expected, especially now in teenagers' groups.

Parents in this country worry so much more about kids' "fit in" than kids' interest or curiosity about knowledge and skills. And the tragedies of young kids' being hurt are getting serious (even bully to death). It’s terrible! I have to say, those bullies remind me Red Guards during Cultural Revolution in China.

It seems to me, that both capitalism and communism do not guarantee the good nature of human, and both of them do not bring evil spirit to human either. What really produces man-made disasters from time to time, I believe is the fear of being alone. That's what Eric Fromm pointed out in his book "escape from freedom" longtime ago. He thought that most people didn't know how to enjoy freedom, didn't know how to be responsible to their freedom, instead, they escaped from it, because freedom brought them loneliness. And to avoid loneliness, people could do anything, even killing, because as long as they did in group actions, they would feel “happiness” of feeling “belong”.
I am more and more convinced that Eric Fromm told some universal truth here. And collectivism is always dangerous, no matter it is from communism, or capitalism.

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April 18, 2010

Bullied to death --- a social problem?

Just learned that a 15 year-old Phoebe Prince was bullied to death. Sad!
I have been thinking why there are so many teen crimes and bullies happen in this country and started to believe that there must be serious problems in the way how parents raise their kids.
I come from China, where I believe raising kids has been a historical and cultural problem. It is by living in this country (America) that I learned what is exactly wrong with the way Chinese raise their kids. However, the recent generations of Americans seems to be more selfish and self centered than I expected and I started to doubt the way American parents raise their kids - which I used to adore - has some problem: too much attention been put onto kids so kids don't even know they should respect others.

March 23, 2010


Laura (In Treatment)Image by r9M via Flickr

"Love is bigger than any rules."

by Gina --- a therapist (character) from TV show "In treatment"

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March 14, 2010

Negative & positive

This is the Yin-yang symbol or Taijitu (࣪...Image via Wikipedia

It seems to me that lots of people confused "negative attitude" with "talking about negative things". They simply consider them as one thing, which means if you mentions anything bad, you are just a negative person. Also they seems to believe that one can be positive just by ignoring bad things, instead of facing them. But the truth is: positive attitude is built on the fact that first, we could facing negative things; second, we are capable to take them in a light way. Only a weak mind need good things all the time to make it feel good; and only those who can take negative things positively can be count as positive people.

Well, it's a simply truth. I know.
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March 13, 2010


Paris Exposition: Palace of Electricity, Paris...Image by Brooklyn Museum via Flickr

Have no talent or intelligence, know nothing more than textbooks. They can easily make living because they can be very conveniently put in some specific "fields" in modern society - a giant machine that has been dehumanized by specializing, such as engineers, technicians, programmers, even professors. As matter of fact, they function just fine except one profession: medical doctors, where they dangerously do more harm than good.
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"San Francisco" - Joy From Paradise

City and County of San FranciscoImage via Wikipedia

I heard this song over 20 years ago, still remember how I tried so hard to memorize the music whenever I caught it on radio. Later I tried to find tape of this song but never did. Finally, 20 year later in the home of this song I was able to identify it - the "love of my life" - San Francisco by Scott Mackenzie.
The impression this song gives me is always smooth, relaxing and bright - full of sunshine - a pure joy in paradise. And since the first time I heard this song, San Francisco remained as a Paradise on this planet to me.
This video below shows exactly what I would imagine for a Paradise. It is black and white, but I see so many colors inside.