Reflecting on How to Best Spend Our Limited Lives and Pursue Meaningful Goals

  If I had nine lives, it would be fine.
  One life can be dedicated to real life.
  The miserable Danish prince once said: As long as you have a physical body, you are doomed to bear all kinds of disturbances you are born with. One of the most annoying things for modern people is to go through formalities; the most annoying aspect of going through formalities is to fill in forms. The bigger the form, the easier it is to fill in, but the smaller it is, the easier it is to organize and store. The form is issued by the agency, and of course it is as small as possible, so the applicant has to fill in his address in the slender grid that can be filled with four toothpicks. Many people’s addresses are alleys outside the street, alleys in the alleys, house numbers and numbers, and I don’t know how to fill them in. At this time, the person who filled out the form really hoped that he was a god and could include Sumeru in mustard seeds, or he only needed to fill in two words in the box – “Heaven”. After one form was filled out, another one appeared, and there were dense instructions on it, which had to be read carefully with a frown. As for photos, seals, and the numbers of various documents, they are even more indispensable. So half your life is gone, and the remaining half can barely be used to answer letters and hold meetings—if you can find relevant letters, you can stand the smoke from your neighbor.
  With one life, he intends to stay in his old house in Taipei and accompany his father and mother-in-law.
  My father is over 90 years old, blind in the right eye and unclear in the left eye. He used to be the most extroverted and active person, he liked to chat with his fellow countrymen, but now he is trapped in a half-obscured lonely world, unable to go out, and can only recall his dead wife after 27 years, and his thoughts are scattered. Son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter in the field. My mother-in-law is also over 80 years old. Since she broke her leg five years ago, she can no longer walk steadily, but she is able to take care of the blind person next to her with her faltering body. She was originally my aunt. After my mother died, she moved in to live with me and presided over the chores of the lost housewife’s home. She cared for me earnestly, like a half-mother, which made me often feel grateful for the endless road: I lost my mother, but God made me up again.
  One life, to be a husband and father.
  There are probably very few full-time husbands in the world. Men are busy with foreign affairs, and doing this is just a part-time job. Women are often full-time wives. A woman can call herself a “housewife” when she fills out the form, but she has never seen a man call himself a “husband”. It must be God’s will for a person to have a good wife. This kind of divine grace should be carefully appreciated and not taken for granted. I think I’m a better husband than a father because I have a nice wife. Since the mother is so capable and responsible, the father is also happy to “govern”. So my family implements the “prime minister system”, and I am just the head of state in the photo. The four daughters are separated from each other, and the mother is responsible for correspondence and phone calls. The father is always busy with other things, and only misses them silently in his heart.
  One life, used to be friends.
  Although the “old men” in China are only part-time husbands, they are full-time friends. If a wife perfects her husband and lets him donate money and be a beautiful friend, “people in the Jianghu call him Xiao Mengchang”, she will win a good name. This kind of style of having friends but not wives is certainly not acceptable to “new men”. But the new man can’t be independent and not make friends. To appear “friend enough”, one must have leisure and money to be close and happy. How can a poor and busy person dare to let go of making friends? I’m not too poor, but I’m short of time. I only dare to maintain a low profile on “Enough Friends”, mostly just to fight. After fighting the war of attrition with friends around me, there is no more energy to maintain a huge communication network with friends far away across the sea and continents. It turned into a situation of inbreeding but not attacking from afar. Although Yun’s eyes are like beans, he is beyond his reach.
  One life, for reading.
  There are too many books in the world. The books of the ancients have not been read through three volumes and two sheets, but the books of today are flooding in again, overwhelming people. Anyone who can read all the books given by friends can be called a saint in the gentle circle. Some people read books indiscriminately and willfully, and they can become celebrities if they only read the books they like. There are some people who study intensively, only read famous and decent books, and aspire to become a master of Confucianism. As for me, I don’t dare to be a celebrity in terms of wildness, and I am not good at Confucianism in terms of self-cultivation. If I don’t write, I can study properly; or if I don’t teach, I can read happily. If there is a life dedicated to reading, of course it doesn’t matter.
  If the book is to be taught well, you must also go all out, not casually. Teachers test students, after all, the scope is limited and the questions are tangible. Students test teachers, often infinite and invisible. There are lessons to be prepared before class, and papers to be graded after class, all of which are limited. On the contrary, outside the classroom, between chatting and asking questions with students, you can give full play to the merits of “person and teacher” and apply “transformation” outside of “teaching”. As the saying goes, “Famous teachers give rise to great apprentices”, this may not always be the case. The teacher is too famous, so he is busy with external affairs, and there is no time to warm up the table, how can he be warm at the same time? On the contrary, there are some teachers who are “knowledgeable but not famous” and can often contact students to produce practical results.
  Another life should be devoted entirely to writing.
  Taiwan’s writers are rarely professional, and most of them have other full-time jobs. My job is to teach, but luckily what I teach and what I write have something in common, so they are not mutually exclusive. Previously in Taiwan, I taught English during the day and wrote Chinese at night, and I could go hand in hand. Later in Hong Kong, I taught literature in the 1930s during the day and wrote literature in the 1980s at night, and I could do my own thing. But art is an activity that needs to be devoted to. There is no part-time but serious artist who does not put art first. Rubens served as the Dutch ambassador to Spain and painted in the Royal Garden every afternoon. A courtier passed by the garden and said: “Hey, diplomats sometimes draw some pictures for entertainment.” Rubens replied: “Wrong, artists sometimes do diplomacy for entertainment.” Lu Youshiyun “It’s a pity that you don’t give it to the universe. It’s a pity that you don’t give it away. It’s not a Tang poem to write about the empty Huiying. The Qing Temple of Shengmin is not a Tang poem. To open up Taizong’s business to Lingtian, who is not a public when Ma Zhou meets? The future generations will only see it as a poet. Let me caress you for a while.” Lu You believed that Du Fu’s talents should be made contributions, not just words, and his views were just the opposite of Rubens’s. I agree with Rubens that speaking is enough to be proud. Rubens is famous because of his art, not his diplomacy.
  One life, dedicated to travel.
  I think there is no one who doesn’t like to look around: to see others and to read more places, not only to know the world, but also to know yourself. Some people take luxury cruise ships when they travel, and Xie Lingyun will probably do the same when he is alive. Some people go over mountains and mountains with their bags on their backs, and some people travel around the world on bicycles, all of which make me envious. What I love is driving the Long March to see the ends of the earth. My wife loves to travel more than I do, so the husband and wife happen to be each other’s travel companions, which even Xu Xiake would envy. But Xu Xiake is a great traveler and explorer, and we are just shallow tours.
  In the end, there is only one life left, which is used to live a leisurely life, watching flowers bloom and bloom, people coming and going, not pursuing anything in particular, and not being followed by “deadlines”.

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