As internet advances day by day, I suddenly found myself reconnected with many old friends back in China. While each of them is different in many ways, they do have one thing in common: they are all richer than me. Many of them are wisely satisfied with their wealth, enjoying their daily life in China, but some are extremely unhappy, especially those pro-USA type. Their unhappiness is derived from their blind belief in democracy and western world. One of my high school classmates has houses (not really individual houses, but condominium type) in multiple cities, retired at the age I could only dream of, still sincerely believes my life is immeasurably superior than hers, only because of the fact that I live in US. She also believes that everything US has been doing to the world represents justice and humanity. The image of “international policeman” is so powerful and romantic, like a knight with shining armor during middle age.
This really is a marvel to me because it shows democracy really could work like a belief system to those who know nothing about it. To them, democracy is a religion, America is their Jerusalem! Sure I have no doubt democracy is a relatively better system than that system of China (whatever they call it), but at currently moment of history, not everything in China is so terribly behind, and not everything in US is so heavenly perfect (namely the notorious health care!).
I do like America more than China. Regardless the challenges I’ve been through since I came to this country, I had no slight regret of my choice. But I also know, there’s no heaven on this earth. We must appreciate what we have, and try not torment ourselves by things we could not have.
I just read a Chinese parable another day. It says an old man was asked which one is more important, the Sun or the Moon. The old man thought for a long while and answered “the Moon”.
“Because the Moon shines in the night when we especially need it; the Sun shine in the day when it’s already light.”
I found it inspiring. Taking thing for granted seems to be a major disposition of humans. Yesterday I read another article on facebook, about a 104 year-old Japanese doctor’s health advices. While I appreciated most of them, one advice struck me hard: “Energy does not come from sleeping a lot or eating well, it comes from feeling good” Well, I hope the doctor did not mean literally (or maybe the translation wasn’t accurate due to the confusion of Japanese language?), because the fact in front of me is that if we don’t eat and sleep but just feeling good, we die, and die with horrible feeling. As simple as that.
To be specific humans’ energy does come from foods. Sleep doesn’t provide energy but the importance of it is also crucial to our health.
Since I lived with chronic health problem for ages, I found, people – of course include me – tend to take physical health for granted. We apprise our mental power so much to an extend that some people literally believe feeling good is all we need to live well. The belief in our mental power is also out of proportion. During Chinese cultural revolution, a famous slogan was “The field produces as much crops as people want.” Nowaday a popular phrase goes “There are nothing you can’t do but only what you can’t imagine.” Such beliefs go on and on and it is call positive thinking and it’s panacea for all diseases and fuel for all ambitions.
Why people so insist the importance of our mental energy? I suppose the reason is exactly the same as that old man who says the Moon is more important than the Sun, that is: like the Sun, foods and sleep are there almost EVERYDAY, so we ignore the benefit of them, forgot that if we don’t have them there will be no chance for our mental power exercise.
The the Chinese article that cites the parable story above also talks about mother’s love, another thing that many people take it for granted. Yes, I believe physical health is like mother’s love, we only realize it’s importance when we lose it.
The Moon Shines in the night, brings us romantic imagination and fascination, so and so, but it’s the Sun who stays there day and light, provides the most important elements for our existence, which made all those romantic stuff possible. Yet, when we enjoy these “luxuries”, we think those are all it’s about and don’t give credit to something that’s more essential. Why? I don’t know but I suppose that shortsightedness is the flaws we humans are born with.
Yesterday, I went to public library to vote. In voting room I saw a teenager working there who looked familiar. So I asked her:”Do I know you somewhere?” “Maybe”, she said, with a voice of boy. Instantly I realized her face looked identical to a student I taught long time ago, so I gave her a hint:”I teach art.” “I was in your art classes.” “R****!” I called out her name, though with low voice. She gently nodded.
I found, not only her hair was short, her voice was also totally changed. So I thought that she must be going through sex change. However, after we talked a little, I hurried to finish my voting business, then said goodbye to her.
On the way back I talked about this with my girlfriend, who was driving. She said I might be a little imprudent by mentioning HIS previous name, because he might not want to people know about it. I agreed. I also thought, after all these years, he was still a teenager, going through sex change he must suffer both physically and mentally, and my reaction of meeting him seemed a bit “cold”. So I told my girlfriend that I wanted go back to give him a hug. Instantly, she turned the wheel around.
Back in voting room I walked directly to him and said:”I came back because I owe you a hug.” He broke into a wholehearted smiled and we hugged, during which I told him that I was proud of him. Then we exchanged some more words and I said goodbye again.
Long time ago I read Ellen Degeneres’ mother’s biography Love, Ellen, in which she wrote about the moment when Ellen confessed to her about her lesbian secret. Her reaction was giving her daughter a hug, because what jumped in her mind first, was that her daughter had been suffering. I could never forget this detail of the book, because it made such a striking contrast with many of those parents who ditched their gay children.
I do not have children, but I am proud of what I did yesterday.
We all need love. This is because that love make us feel connected to others, and this connection eases, or even eliminates our biggest fear: loneliness. Thus love becomes the greatest – sometime the only – reason for us to live.
But, unfortunately, love from others are not entirely secure. It comes and goes without warning and it’s not within our controls. This is because love from others usually is “conditional”, which means it happens only if we possess certain conditions, such as physical beauty, wealth, social status, etc. So without these conditions, we are in danger of losing love. But, if one possesses a type of love that is “unconditional”, he/she would feel the most secure in his/her life, because this love is provided regardless how he/she is, and stays with him/her as long as he/she lives.
So where does unconditional love come from? I found that they mostly come from two sources: 1, parents; 2, one’s own.
I had never heard of Ted Bundy’s name before until I saw part of his documentary (20/20?) very recently. I was immediately fascinated by his case for one conscious reason: his look. He didn’t look like a bad person, rather, he looked handsome, educated, sensitive and extremely charismatic. So I did a little research and found a book to read: Ann Rule’s Stranger Beside Me.
This is the first true crime book I’ve ever read. I found it extremely riveting. And The most extraordinary part is the fact that Bundy was actually Rule’s “good” friend for many years. They both worked as partners in a suicide support center Crisis Clinic in Seattle, WA., and built a warm friendship since then. As matter of fact, Rule had no slightest idea that at the time they worked together, Bundy already started his hideous killing. Rule had always believed him as a kind, friendly and intelligent young man with a bright future.
Rule herself worked in criminal justice system and has been a crime writer ever since, so it makes perfect sense that she should write a book about Ted Bundy – a most notorious serial killer of all time. The book is extremely long (over 600 pages), pretty much chronologically documented, with accurate details of events and crime scenes. The entire main body of this book – which is the first edition that was published before Bundy’s execution – was inconclusive about Bundy’s guilt. It is in the “forward” – which was written years after the first edition, Bundy’s guilt is confirmed by his own confession, and finally was electrocuted in January 1989. And 10 years after the “forward”, Rule added another “final chapter”. It seems like that Ted Bundy had been haunting Ann Rule most of her life, and would continue do so.
I found Rule’s writing style straightforward yet inviting, and the facts she accumulated in this books are invaluable. I was drawn right into this book due to 2 reasons: the friendship between the author and the killer, and the mythical (or “magical”) ways the killer conducted his crimes . I literally could not put down during the first 60% of book. The rest of book still contains some extremely important events, but I had to admit that there are also some irrelevant trivial matters as well, such as author’s personal life, tedious legal processes, etc., or I was just tired. Nonetheless, my interest in Ted Bundy drove me through the whole book, from back to back.
Bundy brutally murdered dozens, possibly over 100 young women. The manners he employed were extremely brutal and violent, such as strangulation or blowing victims’ heads with whatever tools on hand. I didn’t read any evidences or descriptions on how he tortured or raped victims during the time they were still alive. It seems, as a notorious necrophilia, he performed most sexual abuses after victims were dead. The way he captured his crimes were all so “ingenious” that lots of them were abducted in public places, and he was never caught during and after his crimes. And there were hardly any hard evidences to convict him. He was actually first arrested by keeping burglary tools in his car!
Bundy claimed he was innocent all the way through his trials which lasted over a decade long, confessed only some of his murders – which were still over 30! – merely a couple of days before his execution. Many people believed his innocence – especially women, even after overwhelming evidences (mostly circumstantial) provided in courts. Bundy never lacked female supporters during his trials, he even got married during his trial.
There’s no doubt that Bundy was an extremely intelligent person. He excelled in school when he wanted to; he escaped from prison twice (the second time was quite Houdini-like); his charming personality and repartee not only made him the most popular male criminal among women (include many of his victims), but also impressed his friends, coworkers, even later his defense team members and his judges; he was knowledgeable in psychology, criminology and law, which gave him advantage in committing his crimes. The fact is, he could have led a successful normal life that any men would envy, both career and personal life wise, still, he chose the otherwise.
Though Rule for long time believed that Bundy was mentally ill, thought he should be put in mental hospital instead of prison, both psychiatrists and psychologists did not find him mentally ill, or “incompetent”. They did diagnosed him as “multi personality disorder”. As matter of fact, he fired most of his defense lawyers so he could present himself during most of his trials. He was 100% mentally lucid, yet he lied so well that even when Ann Rule finished her first edition of this book – which was years after Bundy was arrested, she was still not 100% convinced Bundy was guilty.
I have to ask, what made people so blind? Or maybe the right question should be: what made Bundy – such a seemingly charming person – so evil? Was it because he was a illegitimate? Was is because his trouble childhood? His violent grandfather? Or, was it because he was rejected by his first love? Or all of these combined? Or maybe he was simply a born evil? I can’t find a sure answer for my questions, all I can say by far is that, we humans are “products” of extreme complication. To make a criminal like Ted Bundy, probably would take as much as it’s needed to make a genius. It’s also very hard for me to believe that there was no love, no humane side inside this person’s mind. I rather believe he did have a heart, but just at the same time his vast mental and emotional possessions drove him into something so tragic and so devastating.
Notwithstanding, as a person who is so interested in human psyche, I found it’s invaluable to study such a person’s life and mind. We should not let him go without any scrutinizing his inner world, for the sake of preventing future crimes. And I am just glad to see there’s plenty of books about him.
It was in the “last chapter” we could find some details of Bundy’s execution. Though Rule’s writing style is not “graphic”, I found it hard to go through. Bundy was known for his confidence demeanor, but based on one eye witness, he entered the death chamber with a shaking head and quivering knees. As a person who often pondering life and death, I found death by execution is way more cruel than by accidents, or some violence during wars or physical conflicts. When a person know he/she is going to die, the fear is more than a normal human being could bear. I believe Dostoevsky had some serious thoughts and writings about this subject, because he had once almost executed by firing squad. I don’t know others, but if I had to die, I probably die with a violent blow than to be tied into that “old sparky” (nick name for the electric chair that killed Bundy and many other criminals) and electrocuted. I still hold my ambivalent attitude toward death penalty, and if we could not get rid of it, we should definitely get rid of electric chair – somehow it looks so much more fearful than other mothods.
Nonetheless, whenever he is now, I hope Ted Bundy finds his peace. And “peace and love to all the innocents you destroyed.” (Ann Rule)
I found there is a type of persons, who would always let others make choices for them. Or, if they know what to choose, they would “design” a complicated scenario to force others to choose for them. The “benefit” of acting like this is that when things don’t go as they expected, they don’t have to be responsible.
i.e., when they no longer love or like someone, instead of saying: “sorry I don’t love you.” or “I am sorry to say that I’ve been feeling very difficult to be your friend.” they would say:” Do you still love me or not?” “Do you still want to be me friend or not?”
If we agree that helping others when they are in need is one of most important ways to show kindness, can I propose, that it is impossible for those who are not able to “notice” the situations where others are in need of helps to offer helps, thus it is impossible for them to be kind?
In a couple of my previous posts I mentioned how I lost a few life time friends of mine during my middle age hazard. I also said I moved on, and I did. However, the recent unexpected visiting from one of these friends inevitably brought the issue back to table, and I just have a few more words to say, before I move on once again.
Despite of my tremendous joy to see my old friend, during our brief meetings, the frequently unpleasant remarks made by her about my chronic condition subdued my joy. To put it simple, not only she had no intention to know what exactly happened to me during past years, but also she tirelessly tried to “encourage” me to be “mentally tough” (even though lots of these remarks were made completely out of contexts), as if she had known me as a person who could never handle hard situation. At first I was only confused, later on I realized, despite the fact that we had not been together for over 20 years, she somehow already held a strong belief that my middle age health trouble was “mental”, so in a way I “exaggerated” my hardship. This belief was so strong that it was almost impossible for me to have any rational conversations with her. At the end, I had to think (or deduce) that the reason she held such headstrong belief of me might be also because it’s only way she could be free from feeling guilty for her not offering anything during my adversity, as I was always there when she needed (I also suggested this “idea” in my email to her after she left). This is selfishness, and it happened in my dear friend whom I knew since high school and kept friendship for over 30 years, I felt extremely disappointed.
But the real hard, or “wicked” part of this frustration of mine is this: deep inside me I know she didn’t mean to be so selfish. That’s why I tried so hard again and again, to explain, to save our friendship. Oh how I wish that she was just mean spirited or evil possessed, which could make me to move on by one “clean cut”. The fact is, she is simply incapable of some very simple logic reasoning, and her extremely limited life experience also made it impossible to understand my “story”. So at the end, I was angry, she was stupefied.
I think, most people are only capable of understanding things that they have experienced, or things under their scope of intelligence. That’s why humans are mostly divided by experience and beliefs. However, my experience told me, it is during those times when we face things outside of our experience and beliefs (or knowledge), can we truly tell whether we are open-minded or not.
My middle aged hazard was extremely unusual, it costed me not only health and financial wise, but also friendships, which were extremely important to me back then. I have no regret whatsoever, as I did nothing wrong in my communication among my friends, and I still believe they all are kind persons. However, this unusual experience did provide me an opportunity to learn human nature, to see how such kind persons could do “unkind” things under extraordinary context. This experience also taught me that in most life occasions, there is no clear boundary between good and evil, kindness and selfishness. Relativity, really is what I would consider as a general truth, at this point of my life.
About the question at the beginning of this post, my answer is positive: yes, a true kindness does require some intelligence. Good motives are not enough for this world free from evil. That’s why through history we see only wise people stood sidelines of massive stupidity, even cruel disasters, many of which might not take place had there not been participation of thoughtless majority.
It seems to me, that nowaday many people tend to relate intellectual ability to vice, believe that kindness is something independent from intelligence, but this is really not what my experience tells me. I think we should never underestimate what good intelligence can do, what evil ignorance can commit.
Since most people take modern medicine as “absolute” (by saying that I mean, people believe modern medicine can take care of all physical illnesses, except fatal diseases like cancer), they easily consider the cause of unknown illnesses as “mental”. This is why we often see people try to “encourage” those who suffer invisible diseases to work “harder”, to push through, as if they are mentally weak individuals. I still remember once a kind lady’s first words to me after hearing my brief story: ” be tough.” I have to say, not only this is a wrong approach, but also offensive attitude (even an insult) toward those patients. Why, because one of primary reasons these people got so sick is precisely because they are mentally tough – so tough that they overdrew their energy, and their illnesses are nothing but the consequence of their mental toughness.
Long time ago, a young man paid a visit to a Zen master, asking for truth. The master welcomed young man by some tea: he poured tea from tea pot into tea cup. When the cup was full, he continued pouring, so tea overflowed. The young man asked: “The cup is full, why are you still pouring?” Answered the master: “You are right. If the cup is full, I would not be able to pour fresh tea in. Same as our heads, if they are full, now new ideas could be put in. So, do you have an empty head?”
This is a legendary tale in Zen history. In life I realized, so often our existing beliefs or knowledge would not only prevent us from learning new knowledge, as this Zen story implies, they also distort our observation. Some time we think we saw “fact”, but we barely saw what we wanted to see. How I took this photo of gas light lamp is a perfect example:
One day I drove past an apartment gate I saw two gas light lamps hanging on each side of the stone gate. I decided to go back to take some pictures of them. In my memory, the frames of lamps were all black, and I was glad because the contrast between black lamp frames and stone gray background would make a perfect image. So I went back the second day with camera. To my disappointment, the lamp frames were not black, but steel gray, and they didn’t make good contrast against background as I anticipated. I wonder if the dust on lamp surface make lamps looked gray, but after I checked I found that’s not true, because it was rained earlier, the surface of lamps were perfectly clean. But why I remembered they were black? Then in a flash of moment I realized why: because all gas light lamps in my memory were black! That’s why! That’s how my “knowledge” distorted my observation: I “knew” gas light lamps were dark colored so I “saw” dark colored gas light lamps.
So this experience reminded me the Zen story of tea cup. I think the inspiration of this story is invaluable to human intelligence, that is, only when we empty our mind, put what we think we already knew aside, can we have fresh eyes for truth.
I say “God is just” is another convenient excuse for practice of selfishness, because if God is just, why do we have to help the poor? That’s God’s will!
Another argument for religious people on this subject would be, letting some people to be poor so others can help them is one of God’s lesson, or “design”, in order to let people to learn kindness. Really? How about those helpless, those who died in pain, suffering without cure? And is the lesson of kindness really worth thousands, millions sacrifices of life? Would those who were burned alive agree that their excruciating pain (actually I doubt “excruciating” is enough to describe how they felt) was a means used by God to educate others? If so, I would say this God is either unspeakably cruel, or incredibly dumb. Or both.