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Sadness and Happiness or Other Things that can't be told

Popularity 8Viewed 5510 times 2014-3-31 12:54 |Personal category:experience|System category:Life| Happiness, Sadness, passing, genuine, self

When I was around 20 years old, I have discovered Herman Hesse's book "Siddharta". I enjoyed reading the book a lot, however after the years were passing by, I also realized that I had missed a lot in the book. Some of the things that I missed, now seem so obvious and significant, but by that time they had disappeared among other "more important" things for my age. Thanks to my good friend, who the same as I, "got stuck” in China, I was reminded again of one such passage in "Siddharta", a small part of which I want to share here, having in mind my recent blogs about experiencing China. In that passage Siddharta was saying that in the past he would value a stone because of the potential it had inside. A potential to become a human being in the cycle of transformations. He also said that presently he valued the stone because of what it already was, not because of what it could become in the future. After his thoughts about the stone, he suddenly changed the tone and said:

But let me speak no more of this. The words are not good for the secret meaning, everything always becomes a bit different, as soon as it is put into words, gets distorted a bit, a bit silly – yes, and this is also very good, and I like it a lot, I also very much agree with this, that this what is one man's treasure and wisdom always sounds like foolishness to another person.

This is what I have been experiencing a lot recently and in the past - the difficulty of expressing adequately what we think, feel and experience. Sometimes early in the morning or at any other time during the day, we might suddenly get inspired by a new thought, a subtle idea or a vivid experience. It seems that if we hang on to that experience or idea, our lives would become more meaningful and more beautiful. However, often we are in a rush to share this new discovery with our friends or close relatives. To our surprise, as soon as the idea is spoken out, it loses a lot if not all of its inner power and charm. Also we realize how far away is, what we said about our inspiration, and inspiration itself. I know it is important to share our inner treasures, and sometimes they get intensified because of that share, but on the hand, some fresh experiences are like a seed of plant, that has to be hidden in the darkest of a soil until it grows and becomes stronger. Otherwise, if it is shared at a wrong time and place, then the "wisdom" starts sound like foolishness not only to "another person", but to ourselves as well. 

I also found that this is particularly true when sharing experiences and discoveries in a country that is a bearer of thousands years of Ancient culture, in our case - China. It seems that "the words are not good" for these experiences, and as soon as they are said "everything always becomes a bit different", even "distorted" or "a bit silly". Because of that, in the past I would withhold talking about those experiences, or I would only choose a few friends that I trust. But today, I think, let it be. If it gets distorted, or silly, it does not matter. Who wants to hear the message behind, will hear it anyway.

Like Hesse's Siddharta was able to appreciate the beauty and value of a simple stone, in the first days in China, I found it was so easy to appreciate all little daily things and events happening around. It is not that I was advanced in self-cultivation, it was just China's way to greet a new guest. I always remember that sharp sound of cicadas when walking in the campus of "er wai". For me it was not just a sound, but it was also followed by certain nice emotions, however difficult to define and name. I also remember that a lot of simple encounters with Beijing people were refreshing and charged with meaning. For example, on the second day in Beijing, because of the jet lag, I slept only three hours and got up early in the morning. I wanted to take a walk around, but the dormitory doors were still closed and I had to wait until they get open. Together with me, there was a really tall Chinese man, I guess older than me 20 or something years. I could pronounce just a few incorrect words in Standard Mandarin, but he gave me a lot of attention and was sincerely trying to carry a conversation. And it did feel like a meaningful conversation, in spite of my baby-like vocabulary. We managed to understand each other on several points. By now I don't remember exactly what we were speaking, but I remember the whole encounter as a certain feeling, or energy, that was accompanied with subjective colors. That kind of communication I hadn't experienced before, neither I did later. Because there is always something unique in our encounters with others. And in this case it was particularly unique.

I could recall a lot more communications with people that I met in the first days in Beijing, as well as those who would come for offering some help without being asked or just for a simple talk. The experience in general, the way it felt and the way it happened was quite different and incomparable to my life before. I felt like for many years I had to carry all these social and psychological skills of self-defense, a kind of armor around me. Suddenly I could smile without being afraid to look silly. I could exercise my kindness without trying to avoid feeling ashamed or insecure. And I could start communicate with almost anybody in a street, knowing that in most cases I will be kindly welcomed and accepted. I could go back in time being more of my genuine self without feeling insecure. I know this may have to do a lot with how Chinese in general accept foreigners - their guests - but at the same time I would not reduce all that hospitality to one mere aspect of Chinese-foreigner pattern.

By the end of the third day, when I was having a rest in my friend's dormitory (technically I didn't have my own place as a student in "er wai", I had to go to Nanjing University for that), something strange happened. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I felt intensive sadness. A sadness that you only feel when you separate with your dear friend and when you know that you may not see him or her again soon, or worse will never see again. I know, we may attribute this sadness, to the fact, that Lithuanians in general, tend to be sad. I made a joke once, that Lithuanians are only happy when they are sad. They can't be happy without being sad. Look at all our folklore songs - most of them are so sad. I could say to a certain extent that we enjoy a certain aspect of sadness. But in this case, my sadness had little to do with me being a Lithuanian. It was a quiet deep sadness, still somehow indirectly connected with being happy or just feeling well. I realized I was sad about the fact that so soon - in 5 months - I had to go back home to my dear Lithuania. 5 months period appeared such an extremely short amount of time to stay here. What can you learn in 5 months about Chinese culture? How much language can you grasp in such short amount of time? At that time I knew that staying longer was hardly an option for me, I relied on my scholarship, and there was no other financial income or support. And indeed it felt so sad, as if I had to say goodbye to my new friends and experiences not in several months, but just in a few days.

I know that for some people, it may sound even ridiculous or in-comprehensive, or just too sweet, but that was my "wisdom" at that time, which may sound like foolishness to another person. It seems that somehow deep inside I knew I had to stay here longer and I really wished to do that, but rationally I didn't see how that could be possible. And that made me extremely sad.

"But let me speak no more of this... everything always becomes a bit different, as soon as it is put into words, gets distorted a bit, a bit silly..." 







(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)

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Reply Report ColinSpeakman 2014-3-31 16:46
May you be as sad as you need to be, to be happy!
Reply Report Dr.Bill.Shen 2014-3-31 19:46
I certainly can relate the feeling you described to my own experience many years ago.
Reply Report juliuy 2014-3-31 21:07
ColinSpeakman: May you be as sad as you need to be, to be happy!
You always come up with smart and cool comments! That was a good one!
Reply Report juliuy 2014-3-31 21:08
Dr.Bill.Shen: I certainly can relate the feeling you described to my own experience many years ago.
It is good to know that readers can relate to that. Thank you for the confirmation!
Reply Report voice_cd 2014-4-1 09:28
Thanks for sharing your story here, we have highlighted your blog.
Reply Report Maierwei 2014-4-1 10:21
The best post I've read here! A great job in incorporating your experience to what the passage from Siddharta is about. I read lots of Herman Hesse as a freshman at school, and I was exactly 20! :) I really enjoy his narrative style, and remember having  finished Siddharta almost in a trance. I was so impressed... An amazing work. Maybe I should read it again. And yes, I can totally relate to the feelings you mentioned as well, especially that of everything becoming different and a bit silly when put into words. I had similar conversations with Chinese people too, with very limited vocabulary... And laughed afterwards.

Interesting observation about Lithuanians and sadness!
Please keep writing  
Reply Report KIyer 2014-4-1 10:32
many can relate to what you have put into words! good read that brings out the feelings of those that have experienced this.
Reply Report LanaLiao 2014-4-2 20:11
Very touching and impressive, not ridiculous or incomprehensive at all!You are a person with fine, subtle and unique thoughts.I am particularly impressed by your sentence "some fresh experiences are like a seed of plant that has to be hidden in the darkest of a soil until it grows and becomes stronger.
Reply Report juliuy 2014-4-4 23:07
Maierwei: The best post I've read here! A great job in incorporating your experience to what the passage from Siddharta is about. I read lots of Herman Hesse as ...
I feel very grateful to you for such a favorable comment! It is always nice to receive a positive and sincere feedback. It is rewarding to know that people can relate to those feelings and not to everybody my "wisdom" sounds like a foolishness.

However I understand that there might be others who see the post in an opposite light. Those people are also welcome to share what they think, or if there is anything they don't agree.

Long ago I was to told to learn to treat both a praise and a blame with the same state of mind. It is hard to do that indeed. In Bhagavadgita it is written: "with equal calm taking what may befall, by grief unmoved, unmoved by joy" or in another translation: "who is even in both success and failure".

Interesting that Laozi has a similar saying: "Favour and disgrace would seem equally to be feared" - 宠辱若惊. If anyone has a better translation - welcome to share.

Thank you! I will keep writing  
Reply Report juliuy 2014-4-4 23:08
KIyer: many can relate to what you have put into words! good read that brings out the feelings of those that have experienced this.
Thank you for speaking that out and please also take some of my gratitute from my reply to "Maierwei"  
Reply Report juliuy 2014-4-4 23:14
LanaLiao: Very touching and impressive, not ridiculous or incomprehensive at all!You are a person with fine, subtle and unique thoughts.I am particularly impre ...
Thank you for the confirmation, it helps to fix my self-confidence    However, I remember when practicing Chinese calligraphy, sometimes after many tries, finally one writes a character that looks and feels beautiful. At those moments one realizes as if it was not him/her who did that, as if "one" or "I" didn't participate in the process. The same is with the posts, if people like them, it feels like one didn't write them. Someone else did or the post has written itself. I can't take the credit.
Reply Report LanaLiao 2014-4-6 01:42
juliuy: Thank you for the confirmation, it helps to fix my self-confidence      However, I remember when practicing Chinese calligraphy, sometimes after  ...
I'm very happy that you can finally write beautiful Chinese characters. Yeah, it's like drawing and quite difficult in foreigners' eyes.
We all need to build up our self-confidence. When you realize "as if it was not you who did that, and as if you didn't participate in the process", it means you have already transcended yourself and secceeded in achiving what you thought was insurmountable before. then you should have a sense of achievement and congratulate yourself on it.

In my perception, sincerity and genuineness in an article are what touch the readers most. I've seen both in your blogs, so don't have so many scruples while writing and taking the credit. Just express the innermost part of your heart.
Reply Report juliuy 2014-4-6 12:55
LanaLiao: I'm very happy that you can finally write beautiful Chinese characters. Yeah, it's like drawing and quite difficult in foreigners' eyes.
We all need  ...
I think our comments are gradually becoming more personal, so I will respond to you separately in a message. And here I just wanted to say, that it is not only with characters, but with a lot of other things. If you deliver a speech and after the speech you feel satisfied about how it went, you realize as if you didn't participate in the speech. If you teach a lesson and if your class really went good, again, it feels like it wasn't you who taught it. If you have a nice and meaningful conversation with your friend or friends, after which everybody goes home with a feeling of fulfillment, again, at some point you may realize as if you, or your "regular I" was absent. As if it all went by itself, in some kind of flow. It does not mean you were not conscious, no, quite oppositely, in these situations you are conscious, aware and focused. The same with characters, however for me they are just some glimpses, I don't like most of the characters I write with a brush, only some occasionally become the good ones, and those are very rare.
Reply Report LanaLiao 2014-4-6 21:57
juliuy: I think our comments are gradually becoming more personal, so I will respond to you separately in a message. And here I just wanted to say, that it is ...
I have to say your way of thinking is quite unique.

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    juliuy: Thanks for the comment! It is not only our brains, hearts also do a lot during the sleep.

    I used to fly and visit some people through the windows in  ...
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    I didn't know it's bad to go through winows, sounds interesting. I always used the door- slipped in when I see it open ^^

    And when I change places, I can't be sure where I am when I wake up, similar to your experience but doesn't necessarily mean I think of the previous place fondly. After coming back to China, several times I had dreams that I was still back in the house I stayed in Korea, and when I woke up it took me some time to notice that I came back ^^

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