Translation from Chinese
For some time now, my friend Florence and my little aunt have been e-mailing me interesting stories written in (traditional) Chinese (characters), something my laptop cannot display properly. Until now, I've had to ignore them, not caring what I missed. Ignorance is bliss, after all.
When I discovered that I can see Chinese characters on a Mac recently, I was overjoyed. Suddenly I realised what I was missing. The way the Chinese mind works and perceives reality is very different from the way the English language can express it. Much of the Chinese literature I've read is bittersweet, like the heartbreaking songs sung in karaoke bars.
Here is a story Florence sent to my father who then forwarded to me and my cousins. I had to detach the forwarded attachment and open it as a web page on a Mac computer. However, I seem to have problems opening it again from the link on the right!
Like other stories written in Chinese, it is not certain whether "Live life earnestly and instantly" was originally written in Chinese or translated from a story in English. I hope I haven't lost anything in my own translation though I have deliberately embellished it for more interesting reading.
Live life earnestly and instantly
The man guarding the church door was both bored and sympathetic to the long queue of people who came daily to pray to the crucifix. He finally walked up to the statue of Jesus and asked if they could switch places. Jesus said that it's fine as long as he promised not to say a word, whatever he heard.
Nailed to the cross, the guard listened to a rich merchant's stories. As he was in a hurry, he forgot his money bag. The guard wanted to call out but stopped himself.
Next a group of poverty-stricken beggars came to the altar. After moaning about their desperate condition, they stumbled upon the rich merchant's bag of money. They were overjoyed that their prayers were answered so quickly. The guard wanted so much to cry out the mistake but remembered his promise.
A young seafaring man came to pray. He prayed for a safe journey, one which his entire life depended upon. As he got up to leave, the rich merchant came marching in. He was furious that someone had stolen his money bag. He pulled the young man by his collar and demanded that he return the money. Scared and confused, the young man tried to explain that he was innocent and also in a hurry.
By now, the guard could not remain silent any longer. He had seen enough. Too many mistakes. Too many misunderstandings. He opened his mouth and spoke. Shocked at the mute statue, the rich merchant let go of the young man, who fled quickly to catch a boat.
Jesus walked towards the altar, quieted the guard and told him this.
"You broke your promise, and now we have to exchange places again."
"But, but, Sir, I had to. How could you remain silent when there are so many misunderstandings? If you tell them the truth, then things will be better."
"No, you don't understand. That bag of money is a drop in the ocean for the rich merchant. He wasn't angry at the young man at all but merely irritated that he forgot his money bag. Meanwhile, the money in that bag can feed an entire community. So it was good that the poor folks found it. As for the young man, if you hadn't intervened, the rich merchant would have prevented the young man from catching the wrong boat. Unfortunately, the young man is now trying to get on that ill-fated boat. You'd have to run to save his life."
Subtitles for the story might be:
All that glitters is not gold
Don't try to interfere or control everything
Don't try to play God
Just let it be
The last part is a bit more difficult to translate. I don't think I did a good job of it. So I'll need a little help here.
"If you change your heart, you can change your attitude. If your attitude is changed, you can change your habit. If your habits are changed, you can change your character. If your character is changed, you can change your life."
21 May 2004 Friday
Live life earnestly and instantly