Erenlai - Items filtered by date: Wednesday, 20 February 2008
Thursday, 21 February 2008 02:39

Poems on fatherhood

It’s hard to keep from going bad
If there’s no goodness in your Dad.
It’s hard to be a Wayward Son
If Dad won’t be the sire of one.
A boy needs giving-out, not giving-in.
So, thank you, Dad, for all you’ve been.


I’ve never met you, Grandpa R.,
Because you live away so far.
But I can tell how you must be
By watching Dad and being Me.


No fruit at the top
Is found on a crop
With nothing below.
Before that, indeed,
There must be good seed
To make it all grow.
The way to be bolder
Is stand on the shoulder
Of someone who’s already bold.
You’ll only be taller,
If once you were smaller.
For only the golden are gold.
No letter, no mail.
There’s only a sale
If something is sold.
No moisture, no hail.
There’s only a tale
If a story is told.


Thursday, 21 February 2008 02:35

We are all surrogate parents

If the whole of mankind is descended from a first single pair of humanoids, then all 6,300,000,000 people presently on earth are all branches of one tree whose roots go back thousands and thousands of years. But that doesn’t make us siblings. At most we are very, very distant cousins. We all have DNA, but for the most part our DNA establishes the distances between us more than the closeness. Siblings are only those who share the same parents or at least one parent.
If I wish to understand my humanity, then I should study anthropology, which embraces the whole of humankind. But if I wish to know the particular origins and background that is responsible for my unique body and character, then I should look at my parents and more immediate ancestors. They are the roots of the genetic branch that is me.
But it is more than the genetic bonds between my parents and me that have made me what I am today. They raised me, so that as I grew up I absorbed their example and their instruction. This process of imitation and assimilation has a lasting effect upon my attitudes and behavior, but at the same time it was modified, enhanced, weakened, or even sometimes denied by my willful acceptance or rejection of what I learned from them and/or by outside influences that drew me away.
There is much more to parenthood than just providing ovum or sperm. The life that is generated needs guidance and protection as it grows and develops. Nowadays for better or worse, a great deal of the duties of parenting are provided by surrogate parents, since the real parents are either not at home or lack the skill or education needed to perform the task. This places extra burden and responsibility upon foster parents, guardians, caregivers and educators. Sometimes the young learn more from movies, TV, the internet, comic books, cartoons or the mores of the gangs they hang out with than from the lessons of sound morality and tradition or the guidance of wise parents or trustworthy guardians.
Modern society needs to pay more and more attention to the preparation of its young for adulthood. On the one hand, everything possible should be done to ensure that parents and guardians are up to fulfilling their responsibilities and on the other hand, steps should be taken that for all youth of whatever strata of society to which they belong, there are structures in place to fill in the gaps and remedy the deficiencies and deviations.
In this sense, every grownup in society is a parent, whether one has children of one’s own or not. The example of our behavior, the influence of what we say is reflected on the youth we come in contact with. But not only that, if we really love our country and are concerned for the welfare of our neighbors we should take every opportunity we can to influence and assist the education and proper growing up of those around us.

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Thursday, 21 February 2008 00:00

The Rich Life

While photographing an early morning tai chi group in an empty parking lot near my home here Taiwan, I noticed a man and a woman dancing their hearts out in the adjoining parking lot, also empty. Ballroom dance music issued from a portable player sitting on the pavement.  I snapped this photo and then walked on down through a series of parks taking pictures of a succession of tai chi groups. When the camera was full and wouldn’t take any more pictures, I headed back home. As I passed by it again, I saw that the parking lot with the early morning tai chi group was now empty but the adjoining one with the dancers was filled with couples spinning gracefully around, arm in arm, as if they were at a grand ball.

If I could distill the essence of Taiwanese culture, at least as I see it -- that is to say, what makes it so special for me -- it’s this quality it has, that nothing is wasted. Often I’ve wondered why Taiwanese eat so many different kinds of things – even rattlesnakes, sea cucumbers, and tiny pointy ocean snails are relished here. In time, I came to understand that a people like these, who have lived through adversity, would over time have learned how to utilize every little thing. Nothing is wasted here.
The week before I left New York City to move to Taiwan, the recycling program was suspended in Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island. The reason the city gave: the program was too costly to operate. That would never happen in Taiwan. The Taiwanese make big money from recycling and are committed to it. They even recycle waste food, not just from restaurants, but from ordinary homes. Some of it is made into fertilizer, some of it is used as feed for pigs. So with the Taiwanese, it’s quite natural that even an empty parking lot, early in the morning, that’s not being used, finds a function and becomes a valuable commodity.
This ballroom dancing group can be free because it doesn’t have to rent a hall. The parking lot is empty early every morning. No expensive air conditioning system is needed. Outdoors early in the morning the air is fresh and sweet. Ordinary people can perfect their dance steps, get exercise, polish their social skills, and enjoy the company of friends and neighbors. Down a ways in one direction is a different parking lot where another group plays badminton. Over the opposite way is one where still another group goes through an aerobic exercise routine to the accompaniment of disco music. The streets and parks of Taiwan are alive early every morning with all kinds of life. It is a wonderful thing to see these enterprising people snatching a few moments from their busy schedules and coming out onto the streets to do what they love and to share that love with others, without any money exchanging hands.


What impresses me most about Taiwan is the way the simpler people here have of making so much out of so little. Every time I see it, I am inspired to do the same. For instance, I have started saving the coffee grounds and using them to fertilize the ferns. Now I’m growing the biggest ferns I’ve ever seen. And for the moment or two it takes for the coffee to brew, instead of standing around waiting, I have gotten into the habit of doing a simple stretching exercise. After only a few months of this I find that for the first time in my life I have become limber enough to touch my toes at will. These small victories make me know how rich I am. It’s not about owning things or having money, but the joy of discovering how much profit there is in more fully using what I already have.

(Photo by B. Stimson)

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