Many friends I ran into often asked where I had been recently, citing the images or impressions they had gleaned on the Facebook pages. Strangely enough, Su and I barely left town in the last year. Indeed, apart from the month from mid March, we were home bound for the whole of 2014. The mind is a very powerful thing indeed, and most people would conjure up an image of anything and reach a conclusion without too rigorous recourse to facts or evidences, which might explain the state of the society in which we find ourselves.
I began by looking at when I wrote my last letters, and this is what I found. I uploaded my last letter on 10 August and the one before that about two months before. Shortly after Occupy Central began, I had the urge to put down my thoughts or my position on what was happening around town or to comment on what various commentators of various descriptions had said. I even told a friend that I would do that, but I never did. SCMP published a Year End Quiz in today’s Post Magazine with 62 questions on what happened in 2014. I could barely guess 10% of the answers and indeed I was unaware of many of the events cited. My poor results on the quiz, however, had prompted me to write down some of my thoughts before 2014 runs out.
First, people have great expectations on others, in particular the leaders and those in authority, to solve their problems, but would not take responsibilities for their actions. I hasten to say that I am not saying that people are wrong. Indeed, the corollary to this my first point is that there can be no right or wrong in many issues in the public domain, not for long at least. This actually fits rather well with Buddhism and to some extent with Christianity. Buddhism teaches us to contemplate on the world of impermanence and imperfection to rid ourselves of anger, greed and attachment, while Christianity reminds us that all good things come from God such that we can do no manner of good or acceptable service except through God’s grace and will. In his first letter to the Thessalonians, St Paul taught us to rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks. In confrontational times, the parties involved tend to resort to violence, justify the use of violence on grounds of necessity, and blame the other parties for any bad consequences. History, time and again, has shown that violence only begets violence. Indeed rarely are conflicts resolved through violence, if at all. While I am relieved that the long siege is finally over and that people can return to their normal lives, I also note that Hong Kong would never be the same after the experience. There are no winners in the process. We are all losers, and we would stand to lose even more if we fail to recognize the need for everyone to live up to his role and station and to respect each other’s role and station.
My second point is an obvious one: time is a leveler. Time takes away memories, friends and loved ones together with anger, hatred, malice, envy and love; and time flies. For that matter, the year in which Hong Kong actress Maggie Cheung Man-yuk, United States First Lady Michelle Obama, model Yasmin Le Bon and American actress Sandra Bullock all turned 50, the year in which friends turned foes because of differences arising from what happened in Admiralty. Causeway Bay and Mong Kok, and the year in which so much had happened in Hong Kong and around the world, but which many of us, like me, could not remember or register, is about to run out and will in time be buried amongst archives and annals. Obama’s recent announcement on normalization of relations between US and Cuba after a break of 50 years is yet another example of the how the mighty hand of time works. Make no mistakes though, my friends, the breakthrough could not have happened by human efforts alone.
My third and last point flows from the first two. If the views of most people are based on images and preconceived ideas rather than on facts and rational analyses, does it matter how one deploys oneself in one’s private or public avocation? I was at a dinner of an AGM of an alumni association of the leading University in Hong Kong during which the President spoke. He spoke well indeed. He spoke of the challenges ahead and of the University’s future, arguing that while the University had done well, it could do even better, but that would rely on the participation and cooperation of all the stakeholders of which the alumni was an essential part. For his part, he stressed that he was ready and questioned whether his audience was. Has he told his audience anything new? Has he articulated a framework or sketched a roadmap to take the University to its next and higher level? Has he demonstrated leadership other than his oration and motivational skills? I have no answers for these questions, but looking for answers alone would not take one very far forward. One needs a lot more, and the bottom line is that it is for the individual to hold firm on one’s beliefs and to have faith in the Creator for the very essential guidance and direction, without which no man can go very far. It follows that it matters a lot how one deploys oneself. One needs to learn the fundamentals when one was young, to follow the advice of the proven learned and revered, and to practice the sacred dictates of truth, of honour and of virtue through life.
If you think I have been rambling on with my soliloquy, I would not apologize. I haven’t been doing this very often. But before I sign off, I wish all of you out there a happy and mindful holiday season ahead. I hope you would spend it with those dear and near to you, and I hope you are more than ever prepared for another year ahead, full of energies and ideas to turn the world into a better place in which to live.
I hope to talk to you again real soon.