Today is Chinese New Year Eve and 2016 is Monkey year [The 12 Chiense Zodiac]. How big holiday is it in China? It is Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year all combined. Since it is such a big deal, something called Chunyun happens every year:
“Chunyun (traditional Chinese: 春運; simplified Chinese: 春运; pinyin: Chūnyùn), also referred to as the Spring Festival travel season or the Chunyun period, is a period of travel in China with extremely high traffic load around the time of the Chinese New Year. The period usually begins 15 days before the Lunar New Year’s Day and lasts for around 40 days.”
In my memory, it was a frustrating yet hopeful trip because once you survived it, you would see your family! Of course, there were awesome FOOD for two weeks which made all the suffering during the trip worth it! I would start from my parents, to grand parents, to uncles and aunts, to cousins, to childhood friends then go back to my parents……After this, not surprisingly, I gained 10lbs : )
Now back to real life, last night I spent two hours sending/receiving all kinds of “Happy New Year” messages to/from family and friends before I went to bed. When I wake up in the Sunday morning and sat besides the breakfast table, the first thing to do was to continue replying messages accumulated while I was asleep. The most common question is: “Hui, how do you celebrate Chinese New Year in US?” They haven’t realized that I am in Iowa NOT San Francisco. In their mind, US is the same as California. Iowa? Where is Iowa?
After I talked to parents, it was late Sunday night in China. My cell phone finally fell asleep with them. I took a deep breath and set out for Church. Then the magic happened. All of a sudden, everything about the big festival stopped. Everyone around me was talking about Super Bowl Sunday……It was like the spring festival had never existed. For a second, I thought that I might be in a dream. Either one hour ago I talked to people in China in my dream, or now people were talking about Super Bowl in my dream.
Pastor Bill said in today’s sermon: “We should listen to other people more!” I think that is a great idea. If my friends ask me again:
“Hui, how do you celebrate Spring Festival in US?”
I will reply:
“Listen to people talking about Super Bowl.”
It is called culture difference which is the beauty of the world: we are different! By living in another country, you not only extend your microcosm, the more important is that you know you are only part of the world, a tiny part. People don’t necessary care what you care and they don’t have to. We are in such a situation that human must deal with each other who have vastly different views as to the nature of reality. However, our particular culture, our family and childhood experience influence our understanding so much because these happened during our formative years. As a consequence, each one believes his/her own view to be the correct one. The world should function like we expect. Mom used to say :”I can’t believe there are people in the world don’t eat rice everyday.” And I replied: “Sorry Mom, but there are plenty people here can get away with bread. And I am not joking.”
Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen. – Albert Einstein
This is the paradox. When you make effort to resist being self-centric, you are actually on a process of self-enlarging. Put yourself down, then you can start to learn more about the world. Why should we learn more about the world? Because it gives us better understanding of our place in the world and deepens our understanding of what life is all about. We all want to be understood. We all want to meet people who can understand us, care for our feeling and love us. But do we understand ourselves? do we love ourselves? If even we can’t do these to ourselves, how can we put the responsibility on others? If we need to understand ourselves, then can we do that without understanding the world we are at? Can we do that without undersatnding people around us? In order to understand ourselves, we have to learn more about the world. In order to learn the world, we need to be open to people with different mind. In order to be open, we have to put ourselves down. There is no contradiction. It is a synergistic process. I like the way Erich Fromm defines Mature Love:
Mature love is union under the condition of preserving one’s integrity, one’s individuality.
We are together but we preserve our own integrity. By learning from the difference among us, we improve our perception of the world and make one another better human. Those are words I give to myself at the beginning of 2016. All the best wishes to my family and friends. Thank you for all your help and love during the way.