£¼£¼As waves rush towards the sea shore from far far away, again and again, with the swashes running up the beach, leaving as their marks moistened sand, breaking down larger rocks into pieces and eroding away loosened materials, and with the backwashes retreating down the beach, carrying with them some sand and worn rock, thus changing and modifying the coastline, so memories of our past haunt us, flooding our minds and overwhelming our eyes and ears with images and voices from the past, and changing us and our attitudes towards our lives in so doing. Nevertheless, most of us do not dislike them ¢w even if they would let go of us, we wouldn't probably let go of them. Happy they may be, sorrowful they may be, lovely they all are. The past, oh, the past. To me, there is always something wonderful, something sweet, something mystical, something transcendent, something of eternal significance, in my memories of my past. Something which makes you feel like crying. Something which beckons you to love, to embrace, to join, and, as you do this, persuades you to love, embrace and join the present and future as well. As water in a shollow pool is colourless, so is the present cut off from the past nothing and blank and meaningless. Like a deep ocean which makes water look blue, our past illuminates our present and makes it meaningful.
£¼£¼So much the past always means to me. And when I first picked up my pen to write this article, which was meant to be about my experience in my class during the past five years, I just didn't know where to begin. To write down all I want to tell about this subject requires a book, a thick one, which I had neither the space here nor the intention to write. For so complex and unique and hard to comprehend, with such great depth inside, as each of us are ¢w though not all of us are fully aware of this ourselves ¢w even an infinite number of words would not suffice to describe and analyse any of us. And, what is more, language is merely a servant of ours with limited capacity ¢w there are things that language cannot express and words cannot tell.
£¼£¼What am I to do then? To find something most worthwhile to write about, of course. As bubbles of memories swell and burst in my mind, I shall not describe each bubble in detail, but shall try to discern a general pattern, to find whether they are rising in a common direction, or, in Aldous Huxley's words, 'to fuse these isolated happenings into what is at least a partially comprehensible whole'. This will also be the essence of what I have learnt during my secondary school years.
£¼£¼I shall start with some problems or questions which have bothered me and which I have attempted to solve and answer.
£¼£¼When I had just got out of primary school, I saw before me a black-and-white world. To do one thing was right, to do another wrong. Some people were good, others bad. And it was just natural that I thought like that: In primary school, the questions asked in tests and examinations required definite answers. Answers other than these were considered to be wrong. And teachers told us stories in which all characters were either good or bad.
£¼£¼In secondary school I began to learn more. I learnt that while there are things which can be proved scientifically to be true, there are other things which are neither absolutely true or false, right or wrong, good or evil, and it all depends ¢w on the circumstances, on the viewpoint, on the way of thought, etc. From quizzes and debates I learnt about the difference between the former and the latter. Among my friends, I also found a great variety of opinions on issues ranging from religion, world situation, current affairs to simple everyday matters. And there are devout Christians and convinced atheists in my class, as well as people not so interested in abstract beliefs such as Christianity and atheism. Some believe in the power of men, some in the love of God. Some are optimists, some pessimists. Some accept things as they come, some try to change them. Some seldom doubt the truth of everything in black and white, and some always have questions to raise. In short, we all believe differently, think differently, talk differently, behave differently and react to things differently. We have discussions and arguments and debates. We attack others and defend ourselves, trying to prove that we are right and others wrong. We search for truth, and some claim they have found it.
£¼£¼But we are often disappointed. I may have found everything I need and the answer to everyone of my problems in religion, but when I try to convince you that religion is the only way to truth, you may not agree with me ¢w perhaps there is no need for religion in you, no gap inside you for religion to fill. Your interest and hope may lie in another realm. In short, we are like drowning men in search of something to hold on. When I have found a floating log of wood and have clung on to it, I look around and try to save others. But I find that they have already found their own logs of wood. And I begin to understand that there are many logs floating on the sea, but in my frantic search for support I noticed only one. Then, somebody in need may want to share my log, and I would be glad to share it with him, but, alas, it may not be big enough for us two. Then I shall have to tell the other guy reluctantly, 'Perhaps you should find your own log.'
£¼£¼My log and your log. Truth for me and truth for you.
£¼£¼But this is not the only problem I have met. Another is our failure to be what we want ourselves to be and to do what we want ourselves to do. We often do things we ought not to do, and do not do things we ought to do. We often fail to achieve what we think we ought to achieve ¢w certain marks in tests and examinations, certain prizes, or certain positions in the class. Sometimes we become so dissatisfied with ourselves that we wish we did not exist.
£¼£¼And there are problems life inevitably brings, inextricable difficulties associated with human bondage. For if there is happiness, there is to be sadness; if hope, despair; if goodness, evil; if love, hatred; if union, separation; if light, darkness; if waking up, falling asleep; and, if Life, Death. We cannot have one without having the other. Nature's laws are balanced and just. Nothing comes from nothing.
£¼£¼But why? why these problems ¢w absence of absolute standards and truth, dissatisfaction with ourselves and the sufferings in life? Can these be explained? Yes: because we are human beings, a type of animals, a type of living things, and have, as all living things have, limitations set by nature to our vitality, capacity and power. Psychologists and geneticists have shown us that every aspect of us all ¢w our personalities, characters, physical characteristics, mind, etc. ¢w is determined by our heredity, that is, what our genes are like, and our experience, especially in the first few years of our lives. Bow since we are all born different and cannot have exactly the same experience, we are different from each other in all aspects to a certain extent. And since no two minds in the world are exactly the same, no two persons actually believe in exactly the same things and think in the same way. Apart, therefore, from scientific truth which can be proved by experimentation and observation, there is no other absolute universal truth. And no understanding of life by any person can be complete, since each human being is conditioned and limited by his innate capacity and ability and his experience, however talented he is, however wide and rich his experience may be.
£¼£¼Our failure to achieve satisfaction with ourselves and our sufferings in life are also natural and explicable. The former is due to the fact that we are human and not divine, that we are men and not gods. The latter is because as human animals evolved from Nature we cannot escape the laws of Nature.
£¼£¼For Nature gives us life and determines what way we are to go. The way may be hard, it may be painful, or lonely, or unrewarding, but what can we do but go courageously to the end? Is this not the only logical and sensible choice to us? It is just like playing 'Monopoly'. At the beginning of the game each player is given a sum of money as capital (this can be compared to our talents or innate ability). Then at each turn of the game we throw the dice which determine where we go (this can be compared to our experience). And while conditioned by the amount of capital and the outcome of the throw of the dice we try to make as much money as possible. Whether we finally win or loose does not matter. What does matter is that we have played the game.
£¼£¼Looking back at myself and those around me, although my classmates are so different from one another, with so different talents, experiences, beliefs, skills and interests, there is at least one thing I found that we have in common. We all treasure our lives and value our existence, we all strive to develop ourselves fully and live in the best way we can, true to our conscience, for ourselves and those who love us and care for us. We all try to find meaning, purpose, satisfaction, happiness, hope and love in our lives, and something worthwhile for which to live. We all cherish the hope that the light of friendship and love and goodness may never be extinguished among us, and that the warmth of life itself will for ever be near us, encouraging us, assuring us and comforting us. No matter how we differ from one another, in our thirst and quest for life we are all the same.
£¼£¼Life itself is indeed the greatest experiment conducted in the Universe. What will be its outcome we do not know. But we do know that Nature requires our co-operation in this experiment, and that it is best for us to accept this challenge, to love it whole-heartedly, and to be thankful for it, despite its contradictions, perplexities, limitations, shortcomings, and everything. Is not the gift of Life the best thing Nature offers us? The sky is marvellous, the oceans are wondrous, the mountains are amazing, the deserts are awesome, but nothing can be more wonderful than the miracle of Life. What more do we want from Nature?
£¼£¼The love of Life and the gratitude for it is, I think, what fuse many isolated and meaningless events, happenings and ideas together into a partially comprehensible whole. If every thing around me is but illusion, if no thing in the whole Universe is real, I am still real, I still exist, as long as the breath of life is in me, and I know that I am alive, and that being alive is good. I think every one of us know deep inside that nothing is dearer than Life. The love of Life and the gratitude for it, is this not what makes up the tears which fill our eyes when we remember our past and are joined by this very remembrance to the very essence of our existence?