June 29, 2012

"A Short History of The World"

I like history and always wanted to read a book that could give me a clear view of the world history in a relatively small scale. I had very difficult time to find one until I read this one (it is in kindle only). It was written in simply English - which I especially appreciate, and was definitely clear, with most crucial invents of history displayed distinctively, yet interactively. And the author's view points on each events are not only unbiased, but also touch very profound understanding on human nature. I have to say, it is this book (kindle) that gave me a holistic view on world history, and made me feel that I finally crossed the threshold of this knowledge.

I highly recommend. $7.99 price is much more than just well spent!
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June 27, 2012

10 Books That Inspired (First Half of) My Life

Victor Hugo, by Alphonse Legros.
Victor Hugo, by Alphonse Legros. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Reading, has been one of my biggest joy of life. However, books in this world are countless and no one seems to be able to read all books in just one life time. I believe, what books to read is decided both by influence of others, and one's own taste. As soon as one found his/her taste, he/she is able to find "gold" through book mountains by his/herself.
I read a lot when I was young. Since I came to this country (USA), immigration life did have tones of challenge, which made me had little time and mood for reading. Now, at middle age of my life, looking back, I found it's necessary to write down some books that influenced me the most. This also can be a brief summary of my thoughts of life. Below are 10 books I could think of, roughly chronological, with brief description of how they affected my thoughts (not a brief book - review):

1. John Christopher (Roman Rolland) - to appreciate the richness of one's inner universe. I was in my teenage time when I read this book. The inner waves of youth echoed with every page of this epic life story.

2. The Man Who Laughs (Victor Hugo) - love is blind. As a master of passion, Hugo's depiction of human desire is both powerful and exquisite. Had the female character (Dea) not been blind, would she still love Gwynplaine - a man whose face was disfigured? We don't know. However, Hugo's careful design, the love story between a girl with blind eyes and a man with hideous face really "explains" the blindness of human love.

3. Crime and Punishment (Dostoevsky) - "God"'s mightiest love is his unconditional forgiveness toward human sin. I wouldn't understand this as lots of Christians believe, that the only way to get into "heaven" is to believe in Jesus Christ, instead, I understand this as such: we must forgive ourselves and others, do not let the mistakes (or sin) of our past to block the light of today and future.

4. Dear Theo (Van Gogh) - a solo narrative of a lonely soul. Within his long term correspondence with his brother, Van Gogh recorded his thoughts of daily life, which shows his intimacy with nature, and estranged relationship to human world. Again, this type of solitary lifestyle seemed to echo with something inside me, when I was in my late teenage time.

5. Beethoven (Roman Rolland) - the loneliness of a genius. Like Victor Hugo, Roman Rolland was also a master of passion. In this short biography of Beethoven, Rolland focused on the loneliness and valor of the music prodigy. This book, maybe together with John Christopher, made me realized (in a relatively early age of my life), that the loneliness of a few geniuses - contrary to the comfort of majority - seemed to be a natural phenomenon in human world.

6. Siddhartha (Hermann Hesse) - the ultimate enlightenment of humans is in the process of, and eventually accomplished by "conversation" between humans and the nature. I was once highly interested in Buddhism, however, none of Buddhism teaching books taught me the spirit of Buddha as much as this short story by Hesse. I also realized, that the communication between humans and the nature existed in all humans cultures, not only in oriental philosophy, such as Buddhism or Taoism.

7.  Escape from Freedom (Eric Fromm) - lost of humans crimes are stemmed from the weakness of human nature - not the physical weakness but the (mental) fear of being alone, or the isolation (of individuals) from groups. In terms of understanding human nature, I found none of other books influenced me as deep as this book. It seems, that after reading this book, all my life experience and observation became evidence to his theory (I hope this doesn't prove that my thought distorted my observation. No, I don't think so).

8. The Art of Love (Eric Fromm): true love is not an unconditional possess of another person, but an unconditional acceptance of another person. If Hugo displayed what is love in literature (art) form, Fromm analysed "love" by reason (sounds impossible!).

9. Les Miserable (Hugo) - forgiveness is the highest form of love. I loved Hugo's works since I was a teenager, however, this epic story came to me decades later, and still, it shocked my heart like his other works did to me when I was young. Regarding what is "forgiveness", I simply think Hugo did the best humans could.

10. Rebecca (Daphne Du Maurier) - life, is the ultimate mystery. The reason I put this book at the end is not because I read this book most recently (I read this book over 20 years ago), but simply because it truly is my favorite of favorites. By a simple story of love and death, the book takes readers into the psychological journey of protagonist, who from a "Cinderella" becomes a confident mistress of a grand estate. The beautiful & smooth writing style, wit and sense of humor, both natural developed story-line and "casual" swaying between present and past, all these "perfections" made this book becoming to my favorite literature work that I could read again and again, even thought it is not one of the best known works among English classical literature.

Reading is a way to gain knowledge, also a great pleasure to communicate vicariously with a broader world. Listing these books is not to say that I would not reach to the same understanding without reading them, because I believe, anyone can reaches his/her own wisdom with or without reading lots of books, because (needless to mention) the #1 best book for us to gain "knowledge" and enjoy life, is indeed life itself.

But still, I  am glad that I read these books, and many others, and will read more when life permits me to. 
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"Thanksgiving" in China

A social activities named as "bathing feet for parents" (or "bathing parents' feet?) seems to be quite active in China here and there, during recent years. The "spirit" of such activities is "thanksgiving to parents". This picture shows somewhere in China over 300 hundred middle school students washing (or bathing ) their parents' feet. Of course, such event would doubtlessly occupy the title page of major news media, such as "People's Daily News" in China, and gain wholehearted support of majority of Chinese population.  
The event in the picture happened sometime in May of this year, but I did heard such thing happened several years ago, when I wrote a critical post in my Chinese blog.

As I always understand that the only true "religion" in China is ancestor worship, to revere parents also can be one of such "religious" practice. Of course, Mao once destroyed such tradition, which led China went another "extreme", but now, such tradition revived, even though the political environment is still "communism" (I always believe it is ideologies, not politics decide collective behaviors or actions). 

I guess, China will have a long way to go before she understands that parents, the ones who produce kids  simply by having sex - an animalistic function, were not the revered one who gives us life. 

June 26, 2012

Mental Toughness

Maria Sharapova @ Roland Garros
Maria Sharapova @ Roland Garros (Photo credit: johanlb)
Mental "toughness" without physical support equals frustration.

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June 24, 2012

Superstition vs. Science

Lots of superstitions in the past have been turned out to be true (or "true" depend how we look at them) by scientific studies, lots of "scientific truth" in modern days are turning into superstitions by faith in "science".

June 23, 2012


Confidence, is something more to do with how much we enjoyed our life, than how much achievements we accomplished.

June 21, 2012

"One Child Policy" - The Worst Curse Happened to China?

(Just read an article "One child policy is the worst curse happen to China" in a Chinese forum. Haven't read the article but the title did ring the bell, triggered me writing down the following words):

For most outsiders, "1 child policy" might be one of most notorious human right violations made by Chinese government. I agree, the practice of this policy is inhumane. However, the other side of story is, the policy alone, really was pushed by the uncontrollable population explosion since new China was born 1949. It was a right move by my opinion, because otherwise, things would go beyond control.

Here is what happened earlier: In 1949, the demographic data shows Chinese population was less than 0.5 billion; in 1979, 30 years later, when "1 child policy" was made by government, the population increased to about 1 billion (http://www.populstat.info/Asia/chinac.htm). And I heard (also believe) that the factual number was over 1.2 billions. The reason the population increased this much was mainly due to the policy made by Mao himself which encouraged all mothers to be "heroine mother" - which means having as many children as possible. Echoing with Chinese tradition that focused on the continuation of family blood ties, Chinese people cooperated with the policy with great passion. Of course, there were other reasons too, such as political belief - more people makes China stronger, fighting with capitalism, etc. The overwhelmingly ignorance of none-educated Chinese people made government easier to manipulate them (of course, this doesn't say that "educated ones" knew better). So, during "heroine mother" time, many women were constantly under pregnancy, and some families had as many as more than 10 kids. That's how Chinese population increased nearly 3 times more during only 30 years, despite of the fact that "Great Forward Leap" killed over 30 millions people! 

This really is stunning. If situation continued, with same rate, another 30 years later, which was 2009, Chinese population would be over 3 billions (right now is 1.4 billions by official report). This number no doubt is something that none of the governments on this earth could handle.

And needless to mention the quality of lives under such density of population would be extremely poor:  children do not get basic care, child abuse would certainly gets worse than what it already is (child abuse in China has been extremely underestimated, by both Chinese people and government).

Many outsiders only see the inhumanity of practice of "1 child policy". Yes, it is, but the other side of story is, killing babies, dumping unwanted children have been long existed in a country like China (I am aware of such thing also happen elsewhere, but scale is what made difference here). Children, has been the number one victim of Chinese tradition (mostly Confucianism), and they have been living in a condition that is not only without "love", but also without mercy. Under such circumstance, I do not think "1 child policy" is totally faulty, because it is my understanding that lives without decent care would grow into the worst nightmares. So, I believe when parents are not ready, it is better not to have any children than to have many unwanted children, and to abuse them, to make their lives unbearably painful. 

It is true that the practice of "1 child policy" (not necessarily policy itself, bmo) is a crime that violets human right, but on the other hand, the huge population explosion would certainly have a much worse consequence. So, nevertheless, no matter which side to choose, the situation really is the worst curse ever happened to China - once the most beautiful and fertile land that nurtured the largest population on this earth. 

Yes, we human take mother nature for granted, here comes the consequence.

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June 19, 2012

Making Big Money

100 US Dollar bill Series 2001
Waking up this morning, I just realized that making BIG money never be a true life dream to me. It is not that I never thought about it - yes, I thought about making lots of money, many times, mainly during my earlier life when money was pretty much the only thing people talked about, but, (I realized now) whenever I thought about money, I thought about my parents, my sister - people who had high expectation on me. In other words, money as a "life dream", was never belong to my own, but to other people (my family members).

I remember for a very long time I had this "dream" carry on, felt my life was somehow unsuccessful. Even though I did not seriously engage in battles of making big money, but money was still an unconscious "measurement" of my life "success". It was the point that I unloaded my family from my shoulders, I started to feel differently: I can make little income and still be happy. 

Indeed I can, because my life dream is freedom, not money. And I succeeded.

June 9, 2012


Ricci during a dolphin show in Ocean Adventure

After all, there is only one thing in life deserves to be taken seriously: HAPPINESS.

June 7, 2012

Should We Believe What We See? - How Thoughts Distort Observation

"I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing. " --- Socrates

Observation can be considered as the first step of our understanding reality. We may trust our observation without thinking twice because we believe that what we see cannot be false. However, I found otherwise: our observation often is subjective, even far from true. This is because that so often we look at things with biased eyes. In other words, our observation is often controlled by our THOUGHTS, we see only what we want to see, or we unconsciously ignored those evidences that would disprove our thoughts.

Making example of art learning. During perspective practice, many people without previous training would draw the bottom of a cylinder as a straight line (or a curve that is not curved enough), even though what they see is actually a curve (the degree of the curve is depend on angles). Why? I found the answer is rather simply, because they THINK the bottom is flat. This fact demonstrates perfectly how we use our THOUGHTS control our observation: we think the bottom of cylinder is flat, so we should draw a straight line, regardless what we actually see is a curse. (see image on the right)

Another example is how we humans treat homosexuality. Until today, among most people in the world homosexuals are abnormal, which mean it is contradictory to our understanding of human nature, which is: we humans are all born heterosexual. Do we really understand human nature that well? Truth is, homosexuality has been existing along with human being. Scientists even found that homosexual behavior also exists in animal world. These facts are enough to prove that homosexuality is something natural. And what really is "unnatural" or "abnormal" is our thought, or understanding about human nature.

Not only "ordinary" people are often falling such observation - thoughts distortion, but also some geniuses would do the same. Einstein, the person who challenged Newton when he was only 25, refused to accept Quantum theory, a new field of study that Einstein himself helped to establish. The reason Einstein rejected this theory was because it was so obviously contradicts classical physics, also to "common sense". But both theoretical and experimental studies showed that Quantum theory was "neither wrong or incomplete" (Einstein Decoding Universe, Francoise Balibar, Discoveries, 2001). So despite Einstein's rejection, quantum theory had been developed quickly and contributed tremendously to modern technology.

My mentioning this part of Einstein does not mean to say that Einstein was not a genius, only to say that even a genius would have his/her "human limitation" (I know nothing about physics but I would still keep an open mind, that one day, maybe Einstein's doubt on quantum theory would be proven to be right). I also think, that this example also demonstrates that our human reasoning has its limitation: something doesn't fit our common sense, or logical reasoning, doesn't necessarily mean it is not true.

There are many more  examples in real life on this "subjective observation". We often hear people saying "I don't get this" or "I can't get that", this usually just means that what we see don't fit our existing understanding. Our "theorems" are highly limited, variation in real life is infinite, using limited "theorems" to measure infinite variation, of course we will often be in dead ends. Had we changed our bad "hobby", look at things not from "thoughts", but from reality itself, things would be much easier for us to understand.

Why we humans are so obsessed with out theories, or thoughts? This surely involves some complicated scientific study about how the "consciousness" evolved, and is certainly beyond my knowledge and capability (or we can simply blame "snake" of Eden, who brought us the "fruit of wisdom"). But what I am more and more convinced is, that we human since obtained consciousness, developed an obsession with it, feeling an extreme satisfaction when exaggerating its potential, and eventually became some sort of "bigotry". Our tradition, ideology, moral standards, all are just some "temporary logic" ("temporary" here can be "decades", "hundred", or more than "thousands" years), but they have been taken by many people, generation to generation, as "absolute", and used as standards to judge reality. In fact, I think it is exactly these "absolutes" that mostly need to be re-thought or re-examined.

If we look back history, it is not hard to realize that almost every step forward we made, was based on overthrowing some existing "absolute": heliocentric took over geocentric theory, evolution challenged divine creation, relative space-time refuted absolute space and time, democracy replace despotism, etc. So I think the most important "rule" we may follow is, whenever we hit the "dead end", instead of throwing judgments, we rethink our thoughts or beliefs. Only if we can doubt our belief, dare to overthrow the premise of our "logic", admit the limitation of human intelligence, we can be credited as "open minded". On the other hand, only if we take our thoughts as relative, as possible faults, we can have acute observation, be able to see some relative truth.

Of course, essentially speaking, our visions are all limited. That's why I believe that human wisdom is measured not by how much we know, but by how much we acknowledge the limitation of our intelligence.
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