Friday, July 25, 2008

The Way - Chapter 8 (By Lao Tzu)

The superlative manner is like water.

Water carries and channels everything on earth but never competes with them; Water stays at the lowest place where no one is willing to stay, so it is close to the way.


Behaving like water: staying low, keeping a deep and clear mind, having a harmonious and cooperative relationship with others, being honest and truthful, being capable and acclimating to the situation.


Water accommodates to everything but never vies with the other; therefore, it never worries about failings.  

Monday, July 21, 2008

Living Well, Writing Well

mark debernardi at writers workspaceYou sit down there, you feel your brain is empty and you cannot write down a word. You wonder why some people have capability to depict an event so vivid as if you went through it by yourself; why they can describe people and situations so true that you even feel they knew you and they were talking about you.


Good writers care about life and they pay attention to things around them. Here comes my first suggestion: Live your life to the fullest. Put your heart and mind into daily life. Care people, nature, and activities around you. Seize every moment to explore the world. Feel everything around: the gentle breeze, the soothing moonlight, the flowers in the garden, and the flying birds, even the traffic, the pollution, and the natural disasters. Go to a concert. Go to museums. Go to a plantation. Go to Disney World. Don’t miss a thing. Observe and experience the world around you, you will find there are a lot of feelings, memories and thoughts in your mind; you have so much to tell, words flow out under your fingertips.


Think and meditate often. Have a meditation everyday, relax and think: what happened today; what I can learn from it. When good ideas and meaningful thoughts pop up, write down them quickly before you forget. It will build your wisdom and provide you plenty of ideas and thoughts in reserve. Live a truthful and confident life, think in a positive way. All the ups and downs, peaks and valleys, sunny days and rainy days can become writing material for you. After you understand every cloud has its silver lining, you can write an essay or a poem passionately even while you are in the dumps.


Your personal experience and knowledge is still not enough. Read widely to expand your view. Reading is a surefire way to build up your vocabulary, to expand your vision and to create your wealth of knowledge. What’s more, you can learn how to write well from good writers. Read Earnest Hemingway, Mark Twain, Anton Chekhov and all the other good writers. Read the bestselling, there must be a reason they are popular. When you read, not only focus on the information and the story, but also on the way of thinking and the style of writing. Read with a focus mind; memorize good lines which intrigue you. Emulate good writing style, until you are adequate enough to create your own style. As the Tang Poet Du Fu wrote, “Reading thousands of books, you can write magically.”


Put your heart and your passion into your writing. When people read your writings, they want to know you, know your personality, your individuality. Feel free to be yourself. Write with your heart; let your passion shine through your writings. Readers will feel your excitement, be captivated and follow your thoughts. Only heart can touch heart. When they are moved, they will remember not only your writings but also yourself. They will return to you again and again.


Content is the soul of a piece of writing, but the soul needs a fine way to show. Pay attention to structure and flow. Make your feelings, your stories and your points work together smoothly. When you write an essay, you can tell a story, and then make a point; or you can put your conclusion first, then give several examples to prove it; or you can just follow the classic five-paragraph format. Whatever way you choose, you have to grab the readers’ attention at the beginning, drive them to read through to the end.


Content is always the essence, form and style are supportive. What you say is important, how to say it is also important. Saying in the right way will surely enhance your idea; saying it in the wrong way will ruin your purpose. Writing techniques can be learned. To polish your writing, you can read published books which offer you a compendium of specific tips. I just got a copy of “The Elements of Style” by William Struck Jr. and E. B. White, which is highly recommended by a lot of writers. As they suggested, if you only have time to read one book about writing, read this one.


Writing is an important communication tool to express your opinions and feelings. Writing skills are critical for your success at school and at work. By deliberate practice, you can improve your writing skills and will not be daunted by a writing task anymore. You can enjoy the beauty to express yourself freely, to connect with people effectively and to influence people positively.

Published on Vita Issue 5, ASIAPAC Books.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Things I learned from "Kung Fu Panda"

This afternoon, I brought my elder son William to a movie theatre to watch “Kung Fu Panda”. It is an entertaining but deep movie, combining Chinese culture elements and Hollywood humor. It embodies wisdom from Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Martial Arts. I learned a lot of wisdom from this cartoon:
  1. There is no secret in any trade – feel free to be yourself.
  2. Your strength comes from focus.
  3. To reach focus, you have to find inner peace.
  4. Believe you can, you can.
  5. Dream big, achieve high.
  6. You can’t judge people by their appearance.
  7. A master can guide you; it takes you to figure out.
  8. Don’t allow what you can’t do to prevent what you can do.
  9. No one can learn things for you, only yourself.
  10. No one can use your ability, only yourself.
  11. Every master is an ordinary flawed person.
  12. The best style is no style.
  13. Emptiness is the ultimate form of anything.
  14. Humility is a basic virtue.
  15. Fight and war is for peace.
  16. However strong the evil is, the good will conquer the evil.
Finally, everyone can be a Kung Fu Panda!
If you wonder how I can get all above from an animated film, go to see it yourself. You should not miss this masterpiece!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Asian Wisdom in American Self-Improvement Books

During past two years, I have read a lot of self-improvement and inspirational books by American writers. It is interesting to see a lot of American authors like to refer to Asian wisdom and philosophy, especially Chinese ancient wisdom.
Several authors used the Chinese explanation of “Crisis” (危机) to educate people not to be despaired by a dangerous situation. Crisis is combined by two words in Chinese: danger () and opportunity (). There is always opportunity in the dangerous situation. If you are not scared and victimized by the crisis, you can utilize the crisis as a changing point for your life or career. Whether the crisis is a danger or a chance, it depends on your wisdom, judgment and quick action. Keep cool in a crisis, protect yourself being hurt and utilize it and benefit from it as a new staring point.

The other story appeared several times in the books I read is “an old man who lost his horse (塞翁失马)” from Lao Tzu’s “Dao De Jing”.

Once upon a time, there was an old man who spent all his money to buy a horse. Unfortunately, one day the horse ran away. What a loss! After several days, the horse returned with a group of stallions. What bliss! However, when his only son rode and trained a stallion, he fell down and broke his leg, and became lame forever. The old man was very sad. Then a war broke out, all the young healthy men were enlisted to fight, but the old man’s son was exempted because of his lame leg. The battles were so fierce, nearly all the soldiers died. Fortunately, the old man still had his son alive.

The situation is changing, so we can’t judge the outcome at the beginning. Losing may be no cursing; getting may be no blessing. Fortune comes from misfortune; misfortune may hide in fortune. Don’t be overjoyed when you obtain something, be careful of the latent change; don’t be despaired by losing, there is still hope.
A male author ever used this story and said it is an Indian one. I had an urge to write to him that it is a Chinese story composed 2,500 years ago, but I stopped. Now, I am reading the book “Inner Excellence at Work” authored by Carol Orsborn, who referred this story to Lao Tzu. Also, Carol Orsborn used several stories from Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu and Buddhism to enlighten readers.

Troy Anderson, an entrepreneur and a competent Go player, composed a book “The Way of Go”. Go is an ancient Asian chess game with 361 grids and played by two persons who hold either black chess pieces or white ones. In “The Way of Go”, Anderson told us how to use the philosophies and strategies found in the game Go to succeed in the real life and the business world, such as how to utilize the limited resources, how to deal with global and local, how to read people’s minds, how to change disadvantaged situation to your benefit and so on. Inspired by this book, I tried to play Go, but I can never be a good player of it because I am unable to think five steps in advance.
I read motivational books by American authors to learn Western philosophies and wisdoms, and try to be more proactive and positive. The American writers like to assimilate Asian wisdom in their books to search for inner peace and wisdom. Therefore, I think, the best wisdom should be a combination of both the Western philosophy and the Eastern philosophy.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Fairer Sex

When I watched Animal Planet channel on TV, I was amazed that most male animals are more beautiful than their female counterparts. Male lions have long, valliant hair on their necks; male leopards have bright and colorful patterns on their glossy fur; Peacocks have showy extravagant tails, which they display as part of courtship. Comparatively, the female have dull and plain look.


Scientists assert that it is a result of natural selection, due to the severe competition among male creatures rivaling for sexual partners for reproduction. A healthy showy male creature has more chance to attract a female counterpart to mate. The brighter color and better figure of an animal are proof that it inherited better genes, was conceived and nurtured in a healthier situation.

Plants are immobile, unable to seek out sexual partners. Many plants have complete flowers that have both male and female parts, some only have male or female parts and still other plants have a mix of male and female flowers. Surprisingly, even male flowers can be more beautiful than female flowers. For example, begonia has both male flowers and female flowers on it. Look the photo below, can you tell which flower is male, which is female?

122006 126a Fr2

Human world is different; the surviving rule is complicated. Although a handsome strong man is attractive, but a man’s ability to possess quality resources is determined by more factors, such as intelligence, learning ability, wisdom and social skills, while physical strength plays a small part. Men’s appearance and figure is not that important in a modern society. Nevertheless, there are quite a few women who still believe in love at first sight and chemistry.

Women are called the fairer sex. People instinctly think all the beautiful and soft things are female. They praise a lady in a long shining dress as a peacock, but they forget a peahen can never be as beautiful as a peacock. They think all flowers and cats are female, however, the truth is that about half of them are male.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Human Nature

The ancient sage Mencius (or Meng Zi, 孟子,372-289 BC) declared the innate human nature is good. He believed that human nature will deteriorate without positive cultivating influence, so education is very important.
During the same period, the other sage Xun Zi (荀子,300-230 BC) believed that people are born with natural tendencies toward “evil” and ethic norms should be established to rectify people.
Is the human nature good or bad? It is always a problem to me. I ever believed the innate human nature is good because every newborn has a pure and kind appearance. Also, it is very easy for me to be kind and it is self-hurting to be mean.
I observe that a lot of people are just naturally mean. Wicked thoughts haunt in their minds; mean words pop up from their mouths effortlessly. They do things which hurt people without helping themselves. They instinctively believe human nature is mean.
Now, I think we can not generally say people are born to be good or bad. I would rather say that some people are innately good and some people are innately evil.
If you are a kind person, just behave kindly and nicely with your principle. Believe in cause-effect and the mighty power of kindness and goodness.
The evil people will be haunted by their evildoings and evil words. I witnessed cause-effect worked faster and better than law in several cases. However, God sleeps sometime. That’s the reason we need legal system.