Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Day 104 - Misty Window

Thought of the day: I had an interesting conversation with a Chinese couple tonight.  They came to this country illegally with little education and no money at all.  Now, sixteen years later, they are lawful residents, owners of a house and a local company, and parents of a son who is attending college.  We heard of many families like theirs. We were wondering why so many first generation Chinese immigrants, whether they were from China, Taiwan, Hongkong, or southeast Asia, could start their journey in the US under impossible circumstances, and still managed to make themselves into the middle class or above.  We agreed that it might have something to do with ambition.  It may be cultural stereotyping, but I do observe that Chinese tend to be ambitious and love to plan ahead for the future.  Menial jobs are seen as stepping stones for better jobs in the future.  A dishwasher is not merely a dishwasher, he is the future owner of a restaurant or restaurant chain.  A construction laborer is not merely a laborer, he is the future owner of a construction company or remodeling agency.  A laundromat operator is not merely an operator, she is the future owner of a laundromat and apartment buildings.  They work hard on any job, no matter how menial it may seem, as it feeds their piggy bank.  The constant growth of the piggy bank is crucial for implementing their dream. With careful planning, hardworking, and sometimes working as a team, they can often make it.  I think this is rooted, or at least manifested, in Confucianism.  Confucianism teaches one to first develop oneself morally and academically, and then build and raise a harmonious family, and then bring order to the country, and finally bring peace to the world.  It's a big ambition implemented in multiple steps, and that's exactly what a lot of first generation Chinese immigrants do, albeit in a much smaller, and more personal, scale.  Of course, another historically popular philosophy in China is Taoism, which teaches people the opposite - to just be and live in the moment.  But as far as I am concerned, the well respected people who practice "just be" are people who have already achieved intellectual superiority and served the country and were forced out for whatever reason.  A simple peasant who practices "just be" would be ridiculed and considered unambitious or just downright lazy.  Well, unfortunately that's exactly how some Chinese regard people of different cultures like Mexicans, Australians, or French.  The cultural gap is so deep that it may take a few generations of co-existence in the same society for the differences to be reconciled.

Photo of the day:

What's the story behind the misty window in the early morning?

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