On Community

In the last chapter of Vasant Moon’s autobiography Growing Up Untouchable in India, Moon gives his last note about his beloved Vasti, neighborhood, or community. From his language readers can easily understand that he has a strong feeling about his community. He misses the days he spent there as well as the good atmosphere he experienced when he was young. At the mean time, Moon says that “the community has not remained a community” (176), which implies that most of the things in his community have been changed, including the good atmosphere and the unique spirit.

In fact, when I read this autobiography, I often unintentionally focus my attention on the community Moon describes instead of the situation of untouchables or the praise for Dr. Ambedkar. It is interesting to find that people are likely to stay together when they are in difficult situations. For example, the people in Moon’s community always share things and solve problems together when the discrimination against them existed. However, after they gained their rights and had a better life, the cohesion of this community curtailed gradually. When I rethink the things I have seen and heard in my life, I find that it is a common problem in many communities. In the past, when people had very low living standard, especially when there was a war, they were highly likely to help each other, so the relationships among people were easily formed. On the other hand, in today’s society, many people don’t need to worry about hunger or warmth anymore, so they pay more intention to competitions with each other and are busy with their own business. Before helping others, they would ask themselves that “is it beneficial for me?” or “what does it mean for me if I help you?” that kind of questions. Today’s people are independent, so the things they consider are usually associated with I instead of they. Can you believe that some people even don’t know who their neighbors are after living in the same community for a long time? But it happens in reality.

On mentioning community and neighborhood, I remember a story that gives the definition of “neighborhood” from my Composition class: a man is robbed and beaten by thieves, and another man who lives in the neighborhood walks by without helping. Finally, the man is helped by a stranger. This story tells us that the real meaning of “neighborhood” is not confined to the physical area but the actions of helping and caring about each other. If everyone can do like the stranger described above, the world will become a big community. However, to achieve this dream, people may have to know the people who live next door first. It is ironic that someone asks a thief who is trying to open his or her neighbor’s door, “Have you lost your keys?” isn’t it?

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Blind Men and an Elephant

In the article “Narrating Location: Space, Age and Gender among Bengali Elders in East London,” Katy Gardner explores the memory of some Bengali elders, who have settled in East London, to show their relationship with space and places as well as different situations that men and women have experienced.

At the beginning of this paper, Gardner says that those narratives are not necessarily true or false, as what those people stress are the ones they think important, which means that people’s feelings are involved in when people describe the journey they have travelled. For those Bengali elders, one miserable part of their memory was work, so their comments for work were negative and somehow exaggerated. In term of this kind of action, my teacher had a very good explanation, “Emotions color the memory.” In our lives, we often describe something with a tone that based on our feelings. Therefore, the way we look the world is highly likely to be biased. When our moods are not good, we may think that the sky is gray even though it is blue in reality.

Hence, our perception about a thing is not always fair, and we need to combine different opinions from different people to see the whole picture of a thing. There is a good example – blind men and an elephant – from a course named the idea of globalization that I took last year. In this case, the elephant is a symbol of the fact of globalization, and those blind men represent the scholars in different fields.  The man who touches a leg of the elephant sees the aspect of economics only, and the one who touches an ear see the aspect of environment, and so forth. Since those “blind men” are the experts in their own field, their point of views are limited in the areas they touch and the feelings they have. However, the complete picture of globalization is constituted by those different opinions. This example shows how people’s feelings influence their sights. Thus, in order to see a thing clearly, people have to look at it from different angles, instead of standing still in their own positions and being controlled by their own feelings.

None of us wants to be a “blind man,” so sometimes we need to ask other people for their opinions. Then, we will see the complete “elephant” after combining the “ears,” “legs,” and other organs together. It is what I think and what I feel. What’s your opinion?

Living with Lies

In the essay “The Truth about Lying,” Judith Viorst discusses different kinds of lies people usually tell in their lives. It reveals the two types of lies – one is acceptable, and the other one is unacceptable. While Viorst is giving her opinions after discussing each situation, she also asks the reader a simple but indeed difficult question, “What about you?”

“What about you?” Seeing this question again and again, I suddenly have no idea what my answers should be. It seems a little bit unacceptable that almost everyone tells lies in the world, but it is a truth. Yes, everyone, no exceptions, no excuses. In some circumstances, some people may tell lies to protect others, while some may do so to protect themselves. No matter what the intentions are, we are living with lies, and even sometimes we cannot move forward without lies.

When being asked whom I can’t tell lies to in my life, I thought about myself first. However, I soon changed my mind in the next second. Indeed, I have lied to myself a lot of times, even more than to other people. When facing some problems that difficult to deal with, I lie to myself, “It is not a big deal, I will find out the solution easily.” When I feel lost and don’t know how to move to the next step, I tell myself, “Unclear view is making my journey more beautiful.” This kind of lies is also known as self-deception, a word that seems silly, but it does provide the power of moving forward. On the other hand, I can see that too much lies will cause negative consequences – I will lose myself in the situation I imagine forever – which was shown in the story about Willy in the play “Death of a Salesman.” After experiencing all terrible things, Willy plants weeds in his garden, where the sunlight never reaches. It divulges the lies he has told himself as well as the negative aspects of his self-deception. I acknowledge that being addicted to lying is not a good thing, yet I guess there is another thing emerged from Willy’s death – when he realizes that all lies have been disclosed, when he is not able to lie to himself anymore, he is stuck in a same place forever. Perhaps, the power of lies can be shown from his story.

I have heard a lot of people saying that “living a life just like performing a play.” If it is true, I would like to say that: you may want to act with all your emotions when you are a performer, but you may not want to trust everything you see when you are in the audience, as you are living with lies, and the liar can be anyone, including you.

The Moment of Farewell

Linda is sitting in front of Willy’s grave, she cries and repeats Willy’s name bitterly. Willy, who is about to leaving the world, is staring at Linda, sadly, from the depth of this heart, saying:

                Linda, don’t cry. Even though I know that you can’t see me now, I still have a terrible feeling when I see your tears. You know what? I’m not the man who is worthy of your tears. I’m really sorry, Linda, really. I married you without the guarantee of a peaceful life. I exploited your patience, your kindness, and even the loyalty of our marriage. I don’t know what made me do so, but I did feel very bad when I gave your stockings to that woman. The more you treated me well, the stronger feeling of guilty I had; then, I used to shout at you and be angry with you to drive the guilty of betrayal away. I can’t think anyone else who is fool like me in the world, Linda. However, please trust me that you are the only woman I love in my whole life. I’m sorry that I have to leave you, but it is the only way I can think to make you free from suffering. I want to thank you for your company and understanding, and I want to let you remember that I will do whatever you want me to do if we have the chance to meet again in the other life. I swear I will never let any sad tears come from your eyes anymore, ever.

Noticing Biff and Happy are disappearing from his sight, Willy wipes his face, continuing:

                Linda, please tell Biff that I’m sorry for all the things I have done to him. I cared too much about success and pride. I always wanted to make him prodigy since I was stuck in the dream of being a successful salesman like the 84-year-old man I met, which was terribly wrong. I was proud of Biff when he was a great football player; now, I am still proud of him because he is a great son who lit the light to show me the dark side of my expectation and hopes. As for Happy, I don’t know what I should say to him. He should be angry with me since I have already abandoned him somewhere. But believe me, I didn’t intentionally ignore him, I just…I just expected Biff to be a good model and then Happy would follow him. I felt hurt when I saw Happy crying for my leaving; I’m really sorry for the things I did. Linda, tell them, even though I was not a good father, they are great boys, my great boys…Farewell, darling. Farewell, my sons.

Willy turns around without hesitation. “We’re free… We’re free…” Linda’s crying is gone with the wind. Willy gives a hug to Ben, who is smiling to him, saying, “Yes, we’re free. All of us are free…” 

My Happiness Comes from Your Smiles

                Writing the article “The New Science of Happiness,” Claudia Wallis gives a new version of happiness. He notes some psychologists’ thoughts and studies, and he further analyzes what things in people’s lives can actually make people happy as well as the things that can’t. Finally, the results show that happiness is constituted by “pleasure, engagement, and meaning,” instead of money or sunny days (4).

                In this article, Wallis also mentions some researchers’ suggestions that how to find happiness. Most of them are related to the involvement in other people’s lives. For example, writing gratitude journals, performing as altruism, and loving others can make people feel happy. I really agree with these suggestions since I have the same feeling about the idea of happiness. Because of the involvement, our emotions are mostly influenced by the relationships between others and us. I want to share my experience as an example here. Being a member of AUW Community Teaching Club, I went outside to teach some children near our university last Saturday. There were no classrooms, books, desks or chairs. The only thing that those children had was the passion of learning. I taught them some words such as “sing” and “sleep.” Since all of those words were related to actions, I had to use gesture language to show them. They listened carefully and followed my instructions. The scenes were really moving when they did those gestures with their unique, naïve smiles. Finally, we sang songs together; they used a stick as a microphone for my singing. I had a lot of fun there, and suddenly I realized the things mentioned in Wallis’s article – performing kindness and being involved in other people’s lives could really make us happy. At least, I could not help smiling when I saw their smiles at that time.

                Although we live our own lives individually in the world, the meaning and values of our lives are shown by the things we do; then, the environment we live and the people we meet become an important part of our lives. Our success, wealth, and so many things come from others, and of course, so dose happiness. When we are cared by other people, we feel happy; on the other hand, when we care and help others, we also feel happy, and the feelings can be even stronger than we have in the first case. When I am beneficial for others, or when I make other people happy, I can see the values of my existing in the world as well as the meaning of my life. Therefore, I will try all my best to perform as an altruist, as I know that happiness can come from other people’s unique, honest smiles.

 

 

 

 

About Giving Up

            In the poem “My Family,” Garrison Keillor tells a story about his great-grandfather’s unfulfilled dream – move to Oregon, a place where there are mountains and oceans. Since Keillor’s great-grandmother was too tired to go there, his great-grandfather stopped traveling and kept his dream in the depth of his heart.

            Similar to Keillor’s great-grandfather, in the journey of our lives, we also have our own dreams and goals, some of which may relate to families, careers, or some achievements that can show the values of our lives. However, we can’t realize all the dreams we have since there are some limitations and obstacles on the way of our journey. Those restrictions can be so strong that we can’t pass them with our efforts; on the other hand, they also can be very weak in some way, but we are still willing to give our dreams up because of something else that is more important to us. For Keillor’s great-grandfather, I think that the more important thing to him was his wife. When his wife said stop, he could abandon her and continue his journey, but he didn’t; he chose to give up pursuing the dream of Oregon and hide it inside forever.     

            This poem reminds me a lesson taught by the headmaster of my high school. She told me that everyone will have to make some important choices in his or her life. For example, you need to choose which university to attend, the work to do, and the person to marry. “Since your life is very short, you are not able to fulfill all your dreams and hopes within 100 or mostly less than 100 years; however, you can choose some important ones and use your whole life to achieve them.” I still remember the look she had when she told me this. I understand that I won’t realize all my dreams, so I have to consider what is more important to me. On the journey of my life, I have gotten something, and I will continue to get more. Also, I have lost something, and I must lose something more in the future, as gaining is often accompanied by losing. Therefore, I may give up some dreams as what Keillor’s great-grandfather did. I hope the action of giving up can be worthy, and I won’t regret doing anything. I’m sure Keillor’s great-grandfather didn’t regret in the end, as he got his wife’s company, which was more valuable than the dream he gave up; in addition, it was also a reward for his giving up.

The Roads I Have Taken

In the poem “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost, the speaker, who is a traveler, faced a dilemma – he had to choose one of the two roads in front of him to continue his journey. Finally, he chose the one that few people had traveled, which made his journey differ from others’.

In the process of making the decision, the speaker seems confused, apprehensive, and perhaps, a little sad, which is shrewdly described by Frost with the scenes of nature.  When I read the poem, I could not help thinking the decisions, most of which are related to education, I have made in my life. When I was seven, being the only child who attended primary school in my village, I chose to continue my studies, although there were some difficulties. Five years after that, I arrived at another fork – whether attend the local middle school or one far away from home. Then, I chose the latter one. After graduating from high school, again, I got another dilemma; I received the permission of AUW as well as the one from Yantai University in China. Finally, I walked on the road to AUW. It seems that I am a lucky girl, and the choices I have made seem to be wise. However, I also have paid a lot for the choices I made. The felling of loneliness, sadness, and helplessness has created the most difficult time on the way of my journey. Sometimes, I turn around and look back. All the footprints on the road have contained my sweats, tears, and even blood. Then, I would spend a moment to think that if I didn’t choose those roads, what would happen. However, I have never regretted any decision I have made, as I know even though I can go back to the forks again in my imaginations, I will never go back in reality, never.

Therefore, I will continue exploring my journey and making decisions with my own judgement, although I may stop to look at other people sometimes. Hopefully I will have a happy time on the roads I have chosen or I may choose in the future. Just as what Frost says, “I shall be telling this with a sigh” (16), and “that has made all the difference” (20).

 

 

 

 

I See You, The Joy Luck Club

I didn’t know what feelings I had when I watched the movie The Joy Luck Club. Even though there were some certain differences between the film and the book, this film displayed the main idea that Tan shows in the tangible book The Joy Luck Club, and all stories were still very touching.

Through those characters’ illustrations and memories, I felt that I was reading The Joy Luck Club again. I could see the mothers’ sorrows in China; they were controlled by the rules of society as well as the situations they lived in. As for the daughters, they lived in America but had some qualities that gained from their Chinese mothers. All characters were struggling with their lives; they had to face many challenging things such as looking for their identities and what they wanted. Also, the conflicts between mothers and daughters were shown in a touching way, which caught most part of my attention.

I remember that when Jing-mei and her mother Suyuan had a talk in the kitchen after the crab dinner, Jing-mei said that Suyuan didn’t know Jing-mei’s thoughts. Then, Suyuan replied, “I see you,” and she repeated this sentence a few times. I suddenly understood something –“I see you”—from the depth of Suyuan’s heart. Even though Suyuan had communication problems with her daughter, and she always encouraged her daughter to try to be a prodigy, she could see her daughter’s best quality –unselfishness. Indeed, I think all mothers in this film understood their daughters. Daughters often felt that their mothers always had power to control all the things they did. I think the power of their mothers came from understanding, hopes, and of course, love. Those daughters didn’t realize it until they became aged and faced problems with their marriages and careers. When the mothers told their painful stories about their past in China, they passed their hopes and spirit to their daughters, which created a way for them to walk out of troubles and found what they really wanted. “I see you” was the power the mothers had as well as the bond between two generations. I can see that the daughters understood their mothers in the end, and I’m sure they wanted to give their mothers a hug, saying, “Mom, I also see you.”

As it was a film that lasted less than two hours, it definitely could not contain everything showing in a 332-page book. However, it still has the power to teach people a lot of things related to generations, cultures, and love. I dare not to say that I have understood everything in this film or this book, but I hope and try to use the knowledge I have learned from The Joy Luck Club in my real life, and tell all the characters, “I see you, The Joy Luck Club.”

Take Action

     “Waiting Between the Trees,” the last chapter talking about the characters Ying-ying and Lena in The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, Ying-ying tells her stories about the process of her first marriage, how she goes through the hard time after her husband leaves her, and how she gets married to Saint Clair, Lena’s father.

     Born in the year of tiger, Ying-ying has tigers’ qualities, which includes the gold and the black sides. According to her mother, “The gold side leaps with its fierce heart. The black side stands still with cunning” (Tan 282). For Ying-ying, her black side accompanies her for more than ten years after her husband leaves her; she aborts her baby, stays in her cousin’s family, and waits patiently. I was once curious that what she was waiting for. Was it because of the thought that she was “too good for any one man” (281)? Or she had the thought that her husband would come back her side? However, I do have a better understanding about what Ying-ying wants to say at the end of this chapter; she says that she will pass her spirit to her daughter Lena, who is also a tiger, too. She will “gather together “her “past and look,” “hold the pain in the hand until it becomes hard and shiny” (286). I suppose that she realizes that waiting things to come is not enough for a person, and one should take action if she wants to get what she really wants. Therefore, Ying-ying wants to give her spirit, which is her gold side, to Lena, by which she teaches Lena to take action before things becoming late. Also, she doesn’t want to see Lena to do the same thing as what she did – waiting patiently, sticking in a same place, and losing her way to continue her life.

     I’m so surprised that the ending of this chapter is similar to the previous chapter’s, to some extent. In the previous chapter, An-mei’s mother, who is a concubine, doesn’t have any voice in that family but undergoes all the pain by herself. Finally, her mother’s death tells her how important it is to speak out one’s thoughts. Then, here, a similar lesson is being taught – if you want to get what you want, taking action is important and necessary.

     However, sometimes taking action is not an easy thing to do. Perhaps that’s the reason why Ying-ying keeps silent for such a long time. In order to do that, I think we must be brave enough. What’s your opinion?

When Jing-mei is in the Kitchen

After Waverly makes a severe judgment for Jing-mei’s work that has been done for Waverly’s firm, Jing-mei gives all the guests a smile; then, she carries plates and walks to the kitchen. After putting plates in the sink, Jing-mei stands still there…

            I’m suddenly assailed by a strong feeling with the flow of my blood. I can’t tell what it is; perhaps it is anger, shame, or sadness. I know, Waverly must be very proud of herself right now. I can hear her harsh grating laugh from the living room, which makes me sick. However, I have to acknowledge that she was right; I will never be as sophisticate as her. Yes, I won’t. I’m only a small copywriter, so I can only handle small things that those great people don’t care. It seems impossible that I can be as sophisticate – a word she used – as her. How could I be such foolish that expected to confront her by showing my work? I have already known that I’m not a prodigy.

Jing-mei turns on the water and starts to wash dishes. Her eyes become more and more red.

            What does mom think about me now? She always wanted me to be a prodigy when I was young. I still remember the days she asked me to learn piano with Mr. Chong. She must have expected me to win the first prize in the talent show, but I didn’t. After that, she still asked me to play piano, again, I didn’t. Then, everything she expected me to do has turn out to be a failure. I think she must have realized that I’m not a genius at all, that’s why she agreed with Waverly just now. I should be happy because my own mother can accept my nature, right? Why am I feeling so sad? When she said that I must have been born in this way, I felt really hurt.  My mom, who had seized every opportunity to make me genius before, didn’t do the same thing anymore. She even didn’t give me a chance to have another try! Suddenly, I feel that I’ve been abandoned by the world, including my mother. I’m so easy to be satisfied, which determines that I won’t be the best, neither can I make my mother feel proud of me, forever.

            A sound from outside tells me all guests are leaving. I have to wipe my tears away. I know mom is coming, and I won’t let her see my tears.