Sunday, 30 December 2007

給Anita的信

Dearest Anita,

你好嗎?

時間過得真快,一霎眼,又是一年將盡的日子。

這一年,你做過些甚麼呢?到過甚麼地方去呢?

也許是終日忙這忙那,把以前的閒情逸致都丟開了,總覺得今年的日子跑得特別快,就像一把沙子,無論把手指如何捏緊,沙子還是簌簌的穿過指縫溜到地上去,想抓也抓不住。

時間跑得愈快,心裡就愈想停下來休息。不是適應不了急促的步伐,而是覺得神經繃得太緊,要好好放鬆一下。

相信你也知道,精神上的疲累,有時候比皮肉的損傷更磨人。

朋友都說我認真得過了頭,應該放輕鬆一點。但知易行難,有時候實在無法隨隨便便的接受某些事情。《帝女花》的長平公主有云:「求凰宴,莫設鳳臺,難從濁裡求。若是無緣,怎生將就?」姻緣固然如此,工作、生活又何嘗不是?

盡力做到最好,認真的過每一天,不只是你的教誨,也是一種應有的人生態度。

其實我從來不覺得自己過分認真或緊張,也許是經年累月的,早已把感覺內化,所以心跳加速、手心冒汗這些生理警號,從來極少出現;只有在覲見幾位重要人物的當兒,也許就會明顯一點,但心裡到底是喜孜孜的,出點洋相,那才叫真情流露嘛,對嗎?

無論如何,既然覺得精神疲累,難以放鬆,始終不能放手不管。三年前的痛苦教訓不敢稍忘,因此更應該坐言起行,對症下藥。

今年,終於達成了小時候的夢想,可以躲進完全屬於自己的小樓中,享受無拘無束的日子。當年和Steve討論病情時,他說過與人同住也可以是心理壓力的來源,對於我這種孤僻內向的人來說,實在再對也沒有了。《紅樓夢》的林黛玉,也是喜散不喜聚的,不過她是因為不喜歡盛筵過後的失落,而我,只不過是怕麻煩--既然來去也要孑然一身,不如早日適應,這才顯得與家人、朋友相聚時的可貴。因為不用天天見面,彼此有甚麼毛病和缺點,都可以因為相聚的緣故而視若無睹。若是天天相見,總有一天因為忍受不了而吵架,何苦來哉?俗語說「相見好,同住難」,其實就是這個道理。

我知道你一直喜歡熱鬧,相識滿天下,但在2002年的演唱會中,你還是忍不住洩漏了風聲:Leslie才是你唯一的好朋友。 Leslie當時就給你打圓場,但我們都明白是怎麼回事兒,只好長嘆一聲。要和一個懂得自己、值得信任、令自己感到安心舒坦,而且在他面前可以毫無保留地釋放自己的人交往,實在比登天還難。有時候即使親如父母、兄弟姊妹,倒不及相知相敬的朋友來得親切可信。雖說人心不古,但如今兄弟鬩牆、父母子女互相謀害、師生互相出賣的情況,的確比以前更多,也許就是因為彼此的關係實在太密切、太熟悉,引用「獨孤九劍」的概念,就是破綻大露,容易受制於人。從這個角度來看父子、兄弟和師生等本來應該很親厚的人際關係,的確是悲觀太過,對人性善良的一面、道德教育的效益也質疑太甚,但歸根究柢,正是因為人心生了病,連傳統的道德教育也失去應有效力的緣故。

也許我實在太喜歡胡思亂想了,總是提出很多自己無法解答的難題,庸人自擾,自尋煩惱。我能夠做的,就是學你一樣,做好自己的本分。在昨天晚上的紀念節目中,仍是毫無新意地說你在舞台上如何顛倒眾生、如何發熱發亮,個別人士甚至有借題發揮、宣傳自己之嫌。我以為自己會很生氣,但是竟然沒有。也許,因為我愈來愈清楚,你在我心裡的位置,已經沒必要再與誰誰誰比較來印證。

忽然又想起《紅樓夢》裡的幾句:

你證我證,心證意證。
是無有證,斯可云證。
無可云證,是立足境。
無立足境,方是乾淨。

一切盡在不言中。

最後借花獻佛,送你一首韓國歌迷給你做的music video。他們做得很用心,收集了很多你笑臉的照片,有現實的,也有戲裡的。說不出怎樣喜歡你的笑容,尤其是傻氣、促狹、開懷失態的笑,看著嘴角就會不由得跟著翹起來。配樂的英文歌也很好聽,我第一次聽就喜歡得不得了,重複又重複的播放,就是不想停下來。哪天練得熟了,再唱給你聽。

好了,下次再聊。祝你和Ann姊新年快樂,保重。

Truly yours,

Monday, 24 December 2007

A Christmas Prayer

How grateful I am to be able to have a quiet moment on my own on Christmas Eve.

For the first time, as far as I can remember, I am completely shut away from the noisy crowd hanging out on the busiest streets in town. For the first time, I cooked myself a quick Christmas dinner before watching a DVD and enjoying a beer. For the first time, I can enjoy the peace and tranquillity on my own, while the laughter of parties is lifting in the air from downstairs.

Some friends may say this is my hard-earned satisfaction by working throughout the years to make my childhood dream come true, but I know very well that it requires something more than mere hard work.

It is a Godsend privilege that I should treasure by all means.

Not surprisingly, it requires more than just hard work to achieve a dream. It takes patience, endurance and luck. While one may say patience and endurance is something that can be trained or cultivated, luck is not. And luck is perhaps the most important of all. Luck dictates when is the best timing to take action, what choices are available, what is the best choice to make, whether the process would end up in success or failure, so on and so forth. Luck is something out of human control and what makes life interesting and yet unpredictable. Luck is not something we can do anything to change. We can only stretch ourselves to learn how to accept it and deal with it if it is not working in our favour. Luck is never in our grasp, but hope and confidence is. Only hope and confidence can help us make a difference.

Perhaps one may say I'm being too pessimistic here, and I am. As someone who has spent considerable some time studying Daoist classics during teenage, I just don't want to play up too much the strength of human beings as many people out there do. We should acknowledge the fact that we have many limitations in terms of physical and mental powers and there is something far away from our stretch. This is why I have no difficulty in understanding God's teaching that we should all be humble and honest. Be humble to the Nature and all the creatures around us, and be honest when we come to admit our weaknesses. Only by being humble and honest can we be free from all sorts of fear and suspicions that may haunt our lives.

Thank you, my Lord, for helping me with all I have achieved this year. Without your help I wouldn't have been able to succeed. Please accept my gratitude and prayer for all my loved ones whom you have kindly received to your haven.

Amen.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Some Thoughts on Literary Theory

English literary/cultural critic Terry Eagleton was first introduced to me several years ago when I was taking the master degree in cultural management. Pardon me for my poor memory, but I didn't recall much of the context in which his Marxist criticism was discussed. All I could remember that he was one of the most renowned English cultural critics who originally focused their attention on literature, along with T S Eliot, Matthew Arnold and Raymond Williams.

Neither could I recall the reason why I picked up his best-known work Literary Theory: An Introduction. Perhaps I was just looking for something more thought-provoking to refresh myself in the realms of literature.

Even though I have only barely finished half of the book, I was mesmerised when reading the critical and succinct discussion on the fundamental questions about literature. Questions like "What is literature?" "What makes literature and what not?" "How literature should be read?" are never easy to answer, and yet so many of us have taken them for granted.

It is very interesting to see how different schools of thought define the characteristics of literature and how it should be read, simply because their perspectives are so much different from the traditional Chinese point of view that I'm personally more familiar with. It is even more interesting to see that while some critics believe that literature should be appreciated purely in its intrinsic terms, i.e., the special language used in literary works and the structures in which the words are organised, many others believe that literature does not exist in vacuum. How literature is read, understood and interpreted is inextricable from history and culture in which readers are bred. The discussion between form (language and the way language is used in literary works) and meaning becomes even more complicated when some critics view reading literature as a process of self-revelation or a means or promoting the status quo or social harmony (what a buzzword it is) dominated by a handful of educated bourgeois elite.

The debate between form and meaning seems interesting to me because from the traditional Chinese perspective, the preference for meaning is too strong and dominant to which form hardly poses any threat, let alone challenge. However, there were times when Chinese writers tended to focus their attention solely on extravagant language at the expense of meaning. But in terms of significance, those occasional renegade deviations were nothing compared with the emphasis on meaning, which is essentially derived from the Confucian belief in active engagement in public affairs. Therefore it is not uncommon to see expressions of personal emotions and romantic love to be interpreted in the light of current political developments in which the literary works were composed.

As far as I can recall, there was no established school of thought in literary criticism in imperial China. Probably the most prominent critic was Liu Xie with his masterpiece The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons. His sophisticated system of literary criticism covers both language and meaning but, not surprisingly, with the latter being dominant. Most of the literary criticisms in classic Chinese literature I can recall are merely trivial notes jotted down by educated readers as they read along. Those personal remarks were seldom backed up by a systematic scheme of thought as it was the case in the West.

Apparently I can give no definitive answer to explain why there is such a difference in Chinese and Western literary criticism. What came to my mind though is the fundamentally different perspectives of how China and the West see literary works, which may possibly be one of the underlying causes.

As mentioned, Confucianism values active engagement and participation in public affairs to achieve common good. This translates into a strong expectation of selfless commitment and contribution from the cultured men both from the mass, the imperial government and the educated scholars themselves. Realising the human weaknesses of any kind, Confucianism promotes a number of activities through which those weaknesses can be kept under control. Apparently writing is one of the recommended curricula of moral perfection. With that in mind, it is no surprise to see that literary works in imperial China, like many other aspects of life, are often judged not by their intrinsic values but by their relevance to the ultimate achievement of common good and moral perfection. Little substance or meaning would be recognised if this basic principle is not observed.

How about Western literature then? Based on my limited knowledge of literary history of the West, literary works seem to be less politically oriented as it was the case in China. Subject to further verification, Western writers seemed to be relatively free from political and moral pressures in terms of what to write and how. From Greek tragedies to Shakespearean plays, literary works of the West seemed to be more inclined for consumption and enjoyment. Apparently we can't deny any political or moral implications of those works, but it just doesn't seem as obvious as their Chinese counterparts of the time.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

A Month of Remembrance

Perhaps readers of this blog would wonder why I haven't written anything about current affairs in Hong Kong lately, including the much-touted Legislative Council By-election in which former chief secretary Anson Chan had a bitter victory over her former colleague Regina Ip.

Obviously my attention was diverted to something more urgent and interesting. But it didn't mean that I have lost sight on what was going on.

I must admit that I didn't give a damn to the high-profile showdown between two retired senior government officials, which seemed nothing but an extravagant farce of democracy in Hong Kong style. The appalling tactics to sustain public attention and to solicit electorate support were designed to be misleading and provoking. They only reminded me of the bunch of hooligans fighting for the helm of Taiwan who would smear their rivals by whatever means they can think of.

Perhaps I didn't pay enough attention to the press, but I couldn't help wondering why nobody seems to remember the first anniversary of the demolition of the old Star Ferry Pier and its clock tower in Central. The prevalent silence in the local media on this matter is awfully disappointing. Just 367 days ago, on 16 December 2006, the old pier and its clock tower that together embraced countless fond memories of at least three generations in Hong Kong was brutally devastated by a bunch of baby-boomers obsessed with the way they perceive the world. They were too stubborn to be convinced of the significance of history as much as economic gains until they were forced to yield to enormous political pressure, which would, not surprisingly, put their own interests at stake.

After our recent visit to the controversial King Yin Lane on Stubbs Road, Shirley was quite right to say that to educate fellow folks in Hong Kong about the value of history, essentially our past and our story, is the only effective means of changing people's minds. However, as a pessimist, I can't help worrying about the school curriculum, which has been so hopelessly dominated by the same group of baby-boomers who know little, if anything at all, about education and what it is supposed to achieve. Chinese history and Chinese language were among the first victims of education reforms that were introduced simply for the sake of introduction and, ultimately, personal gains. I just can't imagine what would happen if the same group of people start thinking about "teaching" our next generations about heritage conservation as if they know what they are talking about.

The 70th anniversary of the Rape of Nanjing on 13 December is also another significant date deserving public attention. The fact that Japan has yet to officially apologise for the atrocities it brought to its neighbours during the Second World War, let alone taking concrete steps to compensate its neighbours and reassure them of its commitment to peace, is by all means regretful and annoying. Apparently the ambiguity and reluctance to fully acknowledge and accept its responsibility is deep-rooted in its culture and history. Japan is never known for as a culture that appreciates candidness and openness, especially when it comes to the conceding of guilt. That's why it is so hopelessly frustrating to make Japan, in particular its political leaders, bold enough to take a ground-breaking step out of the shadow that has been haunting the country for decades. No matter how strong the arguments are, the Japanese would only interpret them in the same way - that its neighbours are trying hard to embarrass Japan and to make it look bad and inferior.

But Japan is never the only one to blame for its evasive attitude. It was even more unfortunate for the Chinese people, who had probably suffered more than any of their neighbours under Japanese invasion, to have two generous leaders who reportedly volunteered to waive any official indemnity from Japan. This generosity, of course, has to be compensated later and elsewhere, even until today.

This is why I find it least tolerable to see the witnesses of the Rape of Nanjing and other victims of the Second World War died in anguish and resentment. Most of them just wanted a formal apology and some compensation, more in ritual than in real terms, to be assured that Japan truly regrets what its forefathers did to them.

As we can see from the examples mentioned above, one does not require a degree in cultural studies to understand the politics of disappearance. In the simplest terms, disappearance provides the perfect platform to start things from scratch, which is much easier than to manage a thorny issue with undesired roots and unpredictable consequences and divert it to the direction in which we would like things to develop. To achieve disappearance is easy. Removal is a common tactic, while neglect is another. What bothers me though is that so many people seem to be too obsessed with the immediate effect of those quick fixes, losing sight to the long-term and irreversible harm that can last for generations.

Monday, 17 December 2007

The First Month of New Experience

Today marks the first completed month since I moved in my new haven. It is certainly a fresh experience that I have been longing for since childhood. It is not exciting as I originally thought, but is certainly rewarding and satisfying.

It took just about a week to establish the daily schedule of how tasks of housework are completed, but there were always something unexpected that came up in the last moment and disrupted a perfect plan for the evening. While I barely managed to hold my tempers and keep things going as smoothly as possible, I couldn't help wondering if those nuisances were meant to be inevitable in the transition.

The short trip to Sichuan with Shirley, Daphne and Tianliang was certainly refreshing. Looking at the photos of Jiuzhaigou and Mount Emei, as well as the lovely pandas, the refreshing and relaxing breakaway seemed so remote that I can hardly believe that we had such a wonderful time just three weeks ago.

Now that everything seems settled and my home computer finally fixed (phew - what a relief to be able to remove the Trojan caught from a client's office through the USB memory stick), I can move on to realise the ultimate purpose of moving out - to focus on my reading and writing.

Even though the daily commutation takes less than one hour in total, it still provides a valuable quiet moment to indulge myself in the longed-for pleasure of reading. Nothing compares to the joy of picking up a book that has long been abandoned for some reason and making good progress on a daily basis.

The pleasure doesn't just stop there. Better utilisation of time at home with a well-planned schedule is equally rewarding. I can now finish dinner and washing early and spend an hour or two almost every day on books, films or TV dramas, without eating too much into the sleeping hours.

What else can I ask for? Perhaps just a few more hours for workout during the week.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

四川印象之四

即使對成都毫無期盼,但匆匆逛了一圈,還是覺得有點失望。

已經不計較當地導遊小王對成都跡近媚諂的讚美--畢竟是人之常情,有誰願意在陌生人面前承認自己故鄉的不是?有誰願意坦然把故鄉的缺點告訴萍水相逢的遊客?當然是擇善而從了--還是覺得四川欠缺了一點點成熟大度的風範。

漫步於野趣天然、滿目蒼翠的四川郊外,十分佩服當局保持自然風貌與發展旅遊之間所取得的平衡,甚至可以說是值得全國各地借鑑的楷模;但來到了身為首府的成都,卻瞥見一種繁華背後的自卑,令人深感不是味兒。

撇開甚麼「錦里仿古一條街」那些千篇一律的「假古董」不談,最明顯的是到處充斥著以外國地名命名的高樓大廈,甚麼「溫哥華公寓」、「德國堡壘」等等,不一而足,比香港那些「君臨天下」、「擎天半島」、「名門」等所謂「豪宅」的名字,好不了多少。

如果說香港的「豪宅」名稱代表著一種不可一世的暴發戶嘴臉,那麼成都以外國地名為房屋命名,又是否代表著一種自信不足、誤以為「外國月亮比較圓」的心理?

儘管成都位處西陲,與中原相距萬里,畢竟是擁有二千多年歷史的古城,何必如此妄自菲薄?如今成都仍保留不少具有地方特色的街名,如琴台路、武侯祠大街、青羊上街等,足為明證。不是跟外國攀附就是和自家人斤斤計較,就連建設地鐵系統的投資金額也要和重慶一較高下,又有甚麼意義?須知道地鐵系統是為了造福市民而建設的項目,重點不在於投資多少,而在於系統和路線設計是否恰當、施工是否安全、系統建成後的營運是否便捷有效,達到疏導交通、方便市民和遊客的目標。如果成都當局認為投資建設地鐵是一種「面子工程」,那跟當年石崇、王愷比富的浮誇淺薄有何分別?

也許有人說,批評人家容易,自我批評卻難。誠然,但我批評成都,絲毫沒有把香港捧到天上去的意思。其實,身為土生土長的香港人,我比誰都清楚香港的深層次矛盾,只可惜「喝香港水、流香港血」的當政者似乎還沒有意識到問題有多嚴重,仍舊只看重眼前的蠅頭小利,甘願被浮沙上的繁華蒙蔽了眼睛。我只是不想看到像成都那樣內涵豐富、本來可以活出自己個性和尊嚴的古城,像香港一樣迷失了自己。

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

四川印象之三

這次到四川,本來沒想過要看熊貓,但因為朋友愛看,也就湊湊熱鬧,參加行程最後一天的自費節目。

看熊貓的地點位於成都外緣的保育基地,距市中心約三十分鐘車程。保育中心看起來和一般動物園沒有太大分別,但設有多個研究室和保育室,把不同年齡和狀況的熊貓分隔照顧。

園中道路蜿蜒,竹海森森,滿目生涼,好一座設計上乘的園林。

原來除了黑白兩色的大熊貓外,園中也飼養了不少看起來像浣熊、遍身棕紅色短毛的小熊貓。大熊貓比較像熊,小熊貓則像貓,倒也有趣。

雖然沒有機會像許老爺那樣親親大熊貓,但與大、小熊貓只有十呎八呎左右的距離,沒有圍牆和玻璃阻隔,看著牠們鮮蹦活跳的模樣兒,逗得大夥兒童心大起,情不自禁大呼小叫起來。

最後來到一些較為年長的大熊貓的居處,碰巧管理員拋過去一堆新鮮竹子,幾隻本來自得其樂的熊貓,都一窩蜂上前去搶竹子,吃得津津有味。看著他們的饞相,實在令人忍俊不禁。也許,自己也比牠們好不了多少。

Sunday, 2 December 2007

四川印象之二

有道是「黃山歸來不看山,九寨歸來不看水」,竊以為是有點過譽了,但在零下十餘度的深秋時分,沐浴在萬里無雲的晴空中,一邊漫步談笑,一邊欣賞清澈泓亮的青山碧水,確是心曠神怡,煩惱全消,連不知怎地遺失了暖壺,也沒怎麼放在心上了。

四川是眾所周知的盆地,四面被高山環繞,只有成都一帶的中部是平原,地勢就像一隻平底鍋。這次旅程以看山為主,即使來到有名的高山湖泊九寨溝,我還是對起伏連綿的山嶺和姿態萬千的草木比較有興趣。

更別說峨眉山了。金庸小說場景已成為到內地旅遊的重要指標之一。峨眉山是小東邪郭襄開宗立派之地,光是這一點已足以構成前往峨眉山的推動力有餘,甚麼「中國四大佛教名山」,倒是沒放在心上。

孔子說過:「知者樂水,仁者樂山。」不過,我倒寧願自己有多一點智慧。嘿嘿。

四川印象之一

和幾位老友匆匆到四川玩了幾天,本來沒有太大的期望,倒是喜出望外。

數年前在雲南高山症發作的狼狽相仍然歷歷在目,所以一直對位處海拔三千米以上的九寨溝和峨眉山(總算弄清楚「峨眉」二字的正寫了)有點戒心,唯恐歷史重演。也許這陣子疏於運動,肺活量稍有下降;加上自己暗地提防,刻意放慢腳步,結果玩得十分愉快。正如Shirley她們說的,我能吃能睡,打呼打個不亦樂乎,也是難得的輕鬆。

李白詩云:「蜀道難,難於上青天。」所以一直有個印象,就是四川的山路比雲南還要崎嶇難走,誰知不然。在九寨溝和峨眉山,柏油山路均鋪得光滑整潔,雖然山勢險峻、道路蜿蜒,路面尚算寬敞,有些路段甚至比香港半山的馬路更寬闊。相比當年在虎跳峽與無遮無擋的懸崖相距不過數寸、前往麗江路上遇到落石擋路的驚險,九寨溝和峨眉山那幾個一百八十度的急彎,卻是微不足道了。

坦白說,一直對四川興趣缺缺,從來不是心目中必到的旅遊地區。這次雖然不至於愛上四川,倒是十二分的佩服他們在保護環境和公共衛生方面的成就。

內地公共衛生為人詬病多年,如今來到二十一世紀,終於看到一點成績來。以水聞名於世的九寨溝,終於做到了一塵不染的地步。在山上大大小小的各個湖泊(當地土語稱為「海子」),均是清澈見底,沒有半點垃圾,十數米深的湖水,看上去就像只有幾呎那樣,連水中的小魚和枝葉也是筋絡分明,實屬難得。須知道九寨溝就像一個橫跨幾座山峰的巨型郊野公園,不但遊人如鯽,山上仍有三個藏族村寨,污染是無可避免的事。誰知道兩天進溝,始終乾淨整潔,連廢紙、果皮也沒見到(可惜後來離開時在九寨溝入口外的溪水看到一塊果皮,確是美中不足),如何不教人驚喜?一路上看見很多貌似藏民的清潔工巡弋於各個景點,真可謂十步一人,也許這就是九寨溝始終保持嬌艷潔亮的真正原因。

此外,無論在九寨溝、峨眉山還是成都鬧市,路旁的垃圾箱均分兩格,一格專門收集廢紙、鋁罐等可回收垃圾,另一格則是果皮、食物渣滓等不可回收垃圾,壁壘分明,一目瞭然。好奇觀察了一下,似乎本地居民和遊客也能遵守指示,亂扔的情況不算太多。

內地一直令人皺眉的公共廁所,來到四川似乎可以挽回不少聲望。在市區和峨眉山這些人工規劃、建設較多的地方不說,即使在以天然無雕飾見著的九寨溝,公共廁所都是以流動廁所的形式設於景點附近,但乾淨衛生,毫無異味,照明充足,的確令人驚喜。有趣的是,馬桶旁邊均設有感應器,遊人使用廁所後,套在馬桶上的膠墊會自動向下滾動,帶走穢物,同時轉出一段乾淨的膠墊。一天收集下來的穢物則會於閉園後運出山外清理。如果全國各地的野外景區也能參考這種設計,同時棄用塑膠,改以可自然分解的物料製造收集袋,那就真是功德無量,十全十美了。