March 25, 2013

"In The Company of Cheerful Ladies" - A Cup of Green Tea

Just finished book 6 of The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency - In The Company of Cheerful Ladies. I would first appreciate McCall Smith's plain use of English language, which made my reading smooth; secondly, I would say that the title of the series is highly misleading, because these books are not at all traditional detective novels: instead of focusing on case solving, drawing readers' curiosity in "who done it", these books tell stories of "plain" daily life in which we could draw significance of humanity. This book series amazes me! Reading them, is like drinking my favorite Chinese green tea (I would to try "bush tea" - Mma Ramotswe's favorite - one day), light, but its taste lasts forever.
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March 19, 2013

Kindness and Wisdom

A while ago, I started a discussion about Kindness and Wisdom. My question was: "Does kindness need wisdom?" Today a message from an old friend triggered an unpleasant memory of mine, which I thought was relevant to this topic: 3 years ago, I broke up with an old friend to whom I had friendship for almost 30 years. The reason seemed to be very simple, I did not satisfy her invitation to dinner.

For years I had problem of shortness of breathe. When this symptom occurred, which used to be very often, I simple had to reject (politely) for all the invitations of any social gatherings. This friend of mine was from my high school. After all these years we ended up to the same place in America, it was a "miracle" which we both appreciated very much. And going to dinner in her home with all her family members was extremely pleasant for me (needless to mention foods were all homemade by her parents and delicious). However, there were time that I could not go. First a few times seemed to be OK, but soon after she did not appear to be happy about this, and often complained about my mental state, implied that it was psychological issue that prevent me from living a normal life, also suggested that I did not like to be with her family. I tired my best to let her understand my situation. Instead of gaining her understanding, I faced judgement, include some from other friends, such as: "You seem to ask too much understanding from friends", "How could others people always understand YOUR special condition?" "What's wrong with inviting you to dinner?" "Is it a bad thing to invite you to dinner?" So at the end I just got too much, and decided to end our friendship by not responding her last invitation (it happened to occur when I was suffering symptom, and later I just did not bother to explain same thing again).

By Chinese tradition, it is utmost important to appreciate others "good will". I also had this "faith" in my life and sacrificed as much as I could to "appreciate" my friends' good will to me. i.e., once this same friend helped me by offering teaching in her After-school. I repeatedly told her that the maximum classes I could have in a row is 2 classes. But she insisted to offer me 3. Somehow for "appreciating" her "kindness", I agreed to try, and immediately got sick after. Even situation like this, did not change my friend's mind, that I was mentally problematic.

Sometime I had to wonder, is it my chronic health problem too extreme for many people to get it? Or it is just I got some friends that lacked basic ability of understanding? What made words like such: "I cannot come", being taken as "I do not want to come"? It is true that this friend of mine is physically very strong, so it would be a little hard for her to imagine how a person who is chronically ill feels like. It's possible that she used her own condition/experience judge mine. I once imagined, if situation reversed, if I had a friend told me she/he were too sick to come to dinner with me, do I have problem to take their words just as they were? I don't think so. Not only that, further more, if my friend got chronic ill like this, I could easily make some foods bringing over, and left without much talking. Of course, I would not ask anyone do such thing to me, but simply to say that this is something not so hard for me to do. Do I really possess virtue of a Saint? I don't think so.

I would not condemn this friend of mine. It is true that she tried to help me. However, what she did only create opposite consequence. And the reason is obvious: her helps were not based on what I needed, but what she believed I needed. I just cannot grant her actions as "true kindness", though she is nice, and the reason for that I think is that she lacks some basic ability of understanding, which by my current understanding is a combination of intelligence and imagination, or simply put: wisdom.

March 18, 2013

A Colorful Contribution To My Bookshelf

I purchased 8 volumes of "The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" from, they arrived today and now are comfortably sitting on my bookshelf!

I am currently reading the volume 6 (by far there are total 13 volumes). These books are something I could pick up and put down anytime, very relaxing and joyful, instantly bring me to Africa, to my wise and kind friend Mma Ramotswe.

I am glad that I own this many of them (I will get all of them), because they are truly beautiful things: from inside to out - the content, cover design, the size, the light-weight feeling. In brief, I love everything about this book series.

March 12, 2013

Slice Masterpiece Into Pieces - Destructive or Constructive?

The concrete evidence for one of my observations, which is that American (Western) people are overall physically stronger than Asian, is the difference of bookbinding. Back in China, we don't often see books that are over 3 inch thick (except dictionary or other reference books). When I was young I read some of my first long fictions all in multiple volumes: John Christopher (by Roman Roland) in 4 volumes, Notre Dame of Paris (by Hugo) in 2 volumes, The Count of Monte Christo in 3 volume. But here in USA, most of long fictions were printed in one single volume.

I still remember in my art history class during my graduate school, a professor held a 3 inch thick text book in almost magazine size with undisturbed poise, encouraged us to buy that "handy" version. I was wondered and had to re-think the definition of the word "handy".

I like to read, but when holding a book that is over 1000 pages, I just don't feel much of convenience. Recently I purchased an unabridged version of "Les Miserable". It is in small size, but very thick, over 3 inches. Out of spontaneous thought I decided to re-produce this book by my "Chinese" tradition. Since Hugo wrote this book in different "volumes" - "Fontine"; "Cosette", "Marrius", etc., I split the book by following this division. I sliced the book carefully, and copied the first page of each volume in card-stock paper, and used them as cover pages. The result was not 100% perfect but very pleasant, because I can now read this masterpiece with convenience, and feel the truly justified meaning of "handy".

March 1, 2013

My Pessimistic View On Life

Woodcut for "Long-Suffering of God"
Woodcut for "Long-Suffering of God" (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
No matter how much I could personally enjoy being alive, as long as I know there have been people being burnt alive, by natural cause or by man made, as long as I know there are unlimited kinds of similar sufferings, I would not think human life is worth living. The reason is that I truly believe, millions even billions happy lives, cannot compensate a single person's suffer like this.

Naturally, my next question has to be: why does it have to be this way? Why did our almighty and loving creator produce so many possibilities - mostly our physical fragility - for innocents suffering like this?