Some say that our destinies are written in the stars. If we choose to believe that our lives are not in our own hands, would we experience less conflict?
Written in the Stars
¡@¡@In Chinese there is a saying that some things are destined to happen, andany attempts to change fate isfutile. The ancients who made this observation had meaning andreasonfor this hypothesis.Modern peopletend to disregardtheconcepts of Fate or Destiny as superstitious. This tendency is the result from our zeal for the scientific process, and a strong emphasis on absoluterationality in our world at large. The same zeal was found in the May Fourth Movement in China, when protesters, whobegan in an act of patriotism, were fixated onthe concepts of democracy and western sciences.
¡@¡@If a democratic nationhas positive effect, then it is the result of its subjects having good morals and righteous thinking, not just by virtue of the system itself. Similarly, Science, thoughit has been usedto save peopleand even nations, can also be used to destroy the same people it claims to protect. Today’s military technology allows us to kill across continents by the simple flip of switches. Remote control projectiles, Drones, and the likes, taking innocent lives for vague reasons and poor explanations.
¡@¡@With humility and reverencefor others,and an understanding thatfrom the very beginning the world’s countless problems and passions have beenceaselessly feeding into one another, we can find a clear truth in the hearts of othersand alleviate the ignorance that would otherwise tell us to hate their differences.
With Stability Comes Peace
¡@¡@When people believe indestiny and fate, they tend to garner a sense of duty for, and contentment with, their current state, and there is usually less conflict on both the personal and social levels.There exists in predestiny a specific method, or law, that holds true, andtherefore should not be written off entirely as superstitious, it merely follows a different path from modern scientific thinking.
¡@¡@However, Confucius’teachings on attaining peace and security in health and life do not rely on acceptance of fate or destiny, but on transformation. Confucius’ teachings follow these principles:Secure morality in our world, andlead a life that strengthens the world around us; keepdevotion for the lessons of the Ancients, and bring peace and tranquility to all.With this as a goal for our reconstruction, and with proper discipline, the individual harnesses a strong, and stable spirit.This was once the training of the traditional Chinese scholar. The average personwho could not comprehend Confucius’ or Mencius’ teachings, or who had not the opportunity to practice the discipline was more likely toenter the fold of religion. In the religious world they were given a place, and given a number of expectations. Those who could accept this existence would usuallynot question their place in the world, and could find peace. In this way religion served a good purpose by providing a sense of security and wellbeing to those who could accept.¡@¡@
Self Constructed Peace
¡@¡@Most times when people “accept their fate” it is because they feel lost, and cannot find any other options, so they choose acceptance. If they are ableto accept right from the moment of realization, then theyare more likely to find some sense of joy within.The Italian filmLife is Beautifulis about this concept. It depicts a father and son who are sent to a concentration camp during World War II. The father did not want his five-year-old sonto suffer the harshreality of their world at such a young age. So helies to him. He trickshis son into believing that it is all a game, that the world around them is not real. The camp, the prisoners, the guards are secretly competing against one another to win a grand prize, and if theyfollow the rulesthey can score high marks to win. Believing his father’s lie, the son is less frightened. The father shelters his son and takes away some of the suffering, in some ways this is a good thing, but it is still a form of deception. A better way is to accept your reality, and amount your strength all towards it with an active and open mind, and if you find yourselfstill failing after trying everything that you can, then we call this a case of “things that are destined to happen;” don’t fight it too much and have a good laugh. When we can laugh our way into absolving the pressure we are accepting it without being manipulated by it, and then your fate is in your own hands.¡@¡@
Imbalance is the Key to Loss
¡@¡@Facing the adversity with positivity is very important. A good example isthe king of Western Chu, Xiang Yu. He fought Liu Bang countless times and won every battle, but then he lost the will to fight and lost the war. When Liu Bang chased Xiang Yu down in Haixia, Xiang Yu could have escaped across the river, but instead he stayed for a last stand with eight hundred soldiers. It was a futile attempt. When all but a few of his men remained, he accepted his fate as punishment for his crime of inaction, and his life would be taken as punishment.
¡@¡@Xiang Yu could have avoided this final stand altogether, all he had to do was order his eight hundred men to cross the river. When, in his final moments, he saw that he could not change his fate, he accepted it, but this acceptance came with the cost of his life.
Failure is Subjective
¡@¡@The key is in the attitude we bring to the fight. Liu Bang lost one, two hundred battles, but he never considered himself to have failed, and eventually won. Conversely, Xiang Yu, with as many victories as Liu Bang had in defeats, could never eradicate Liu Bang as a threat, so he chose to ignore him, let him go; then he lost.
¡@¡@Then again, the victoris not necessarily the real hero. Xiang Yu had multiple opportunities to kill Liu Bang, but decided to spare himon accountof their former friendship. Xiang Yu was the better tactician, but his downfall was his inability to see the greater picture. Whereas Liu Bang, who was not as great of a strategist, won because he could accept defeat and see past it. ¡@¡@
Golden Peaks of the Rising Sun
¡@¡@Liu Bang seems like a scoundrel,Xiang Yu like a nobleman or gentleman, but both characters have strengths and flaws. Liu Bang chose not to accept his defeatby responding with flexibility,and by accepting his losses he was never trulybeaten. Xiang Yu won many battles, but when unableto kill Liu Bang he felt defeated, and was ready to leave the affair behind him. He wasgenuienlycaught off guard when Liu Bang broke their truce and came for his life. Xiang Yu felt cheated by his former brother-in-arms, he was devastated by loss, and when people feel trapped it becomes increasingly easier to lean towards more negativity,their outlook becomes bleaker. Just like the poem Riding the Good Plains, by Li Shangyin, “The late day brings out the conflict inside me, while I drive my carriage across theancient plains. The setting sun is a magnificent display,it is just too indicative of the end.” Watching the sunset as it crosses the horizon can be depressive, and watching the sunrise from atop a mountain as it catches the peaks before dawn, with ensuing radiance pouring over the land, brings and charges the light of day into us.After all, our emotions, outlooks, and attitudes,although often influenced by our surroundings and conditions, are still in the hands of those who createthem.¡@¡@
What We Carry Within
¡@¡@The teachings of Confucianism, its discipline, Kung Fu, and practice, are special because they are not dependent on forces outside of us, nor are they reliant on the power of knowing our own destinies, but based in the belief of using our own strengths to stabilize ourselves. Xiang Yu did not have the Confucian atmosphere to support him. He was always ready for conflict and in many cases over exerted himself, or missed opportunities due to hesitation. He did not posses Confucius’ calm dominance, who existed in a state of constant balance.
¡@¡@Confucius’ highest official ranking was similar to that of a Prime Minister today. He served the king and nation of Lu and fought for this nation against the larger and more powerful Chi.Defeating the Chi army three times resulted in the Treaty of the Canyon, which gave rise to the peak of Confucius’ political career. However, when politicians from Chi influenced the king of Lu, leading the king to ignore the counsel of his ministers, Confucius decided it was time to leave. He was fifty-years old then, which was considerably old for his time, but he was not at all withdrawn. He began his tour of the surrounding nations and returned to Lu ten years later, after which the Confucian Analects were created. If Confucius behaved as Xiang Yu did, self-condemningto suffer and remained in Lu disappearing into a small town, becoming a teacher with few students, his life would not have the wonder and light that it does, and there would have been no such thing as The Analects.
It is But a Small Task
¡@Most of us do not have the ability to changethestatus quo, we can only accept. However, if we possessed the Confucian spirit – which emphasizes that preservation and establishment of life that would otherwise harm Benevolence should not exist, and self-sacrifice is a crucial component required to uphold Benevolence – then in crucial moments we could have the capacity to affect the course of history, and alter fate.
¡@¡@Take the example of general Yue Fei,whom relieved his private army to the fieldsin Hunan asprevention for the Jin army’s invasion and breach of their treaty with Southern Sung. Several years later, the Jin army was shattered by the ambushing Yue troops, and the Southern Sung dynasty had several decades of peace as a result. Yue Fei is admired for his spirit, his impenetrable fearlessness, as well as his attitude of total acceptance while he faced this enormous trial. Normally we would assume that “fearless resistance” and “total acceptance” are two opposing concepts that are mutually exclusive, when in fact both can be embarked on simultaneously.¡@¡@
A Complete Undertaking
¡@¡@When the royal court summoned Yue Feifor the twelfth time to cease his campaign against the Jin, he found total acceptance in his predicament. He considered all of the options available: He could continue to fight against the Jin forces, but expelling them completely from the occupied North would bring many more years of war. Secondly, if Yue Fei rescued and restored the captured emperor and his son and heir, what would happen to the newly appointed emperor? There would be inevitable political struggle within the royal family. In the end, it did not matter if the Jin, the Liao, or the Sung emperors ruled China, as long as there was no more war and the common folk could live peaceful meaningful lives.
¡@¡@Yue Fei was a very wise man and he was incredibly courageous, he could have easily kept fighting the Jin without support, but his final decision was to stop fighting. Whilst he completely accepted the unchangeable injustice and indecency of hisreality, he maintained his composure,as the world seemed to disintegrate around him. As he was poised for the final strike against the Jin, he returned to the capitol to face his trial, in which he was framed. He even returned home on his journey to the capitol and arranged for what was to come, his level equanimity and scope has been unparalleled since. Yue Fei’s final act seems as an execution for his failure, but his influence in the foundation and stability of the Southern Sung period makes him a victor of his circumstance.
Failure Through Hesitation
¡@¡@An opposing example is the Sino-Japanese War (Jiawu War). When comparing the forces of the time China’s Northern Fleetscould have defeated Japan’s navy. However, because of Empress DowagerCixi’s manipulation all odds of winning this epoch defining war were nil.
¡@¡@General Li Hongzhang was not one to accept a bleak destiny, so when he led the Hwai division against the Taiping rebellion and other earlier uprisings, he was able to quell them, which paved his path to becoming admiral of the Northern Fleets. However, when he reached this station he was no longer interested in changing destiny, rather he wanted to maintain the status quo; completely opposite from Yue Fei. Yue Fei accepted his fate, but his final moments are testimony of his final victory over destiny. Some argue that Yue Fei’s abandonment of the Jin forces at the final moments of the war made him a loyal fool, but Yue Fei acted with a greater picture of the world in mind, he created a better future. Thus he was totally accepting of and fearless in the shaping of his destiny. Whereas Li Hongzhang, when facing the Japanese fleet, was remiss in what was required of him, he was unable to accept certain realities. If he had the courage to accept that talks with Cixi were futile and instead devoted his time and action thoroughly to the fight thenJapan would never have had a chance at victory.
The First Strike is the Hardest
¡@¡@When the Japanese navy first set out for Korea, genereal Ding Ruchangstood by the philosophy that the force first poised to attack would dictate the battle, the same applies to Kung Fu, the first strike is the most important. If the Northern fleet had delivered a strike from their collective forces, then the Japanese fleet would have collapsed. However, Li did not act, allowing his opponent time to collect and prepare. Because of Li’s excessive contemplation the Sino-Japanese war was lost, and all of China collapsed with it. Once weakened, other nations followed suit and invaded, and since then China was lifeless for nearly two hundred years.
¡@¡@Some argue that regardless of the outcome of the Sino-Japanese war, the Qing dynasty would have still collapsed. However, that is a different scenario, entirely. If the Sino-Japanese war was won, and the Qing dynasty ended shortly after, the terms of the war would have been in China’s favor, China’s international relations would have also been maintained, and the nation would not have been as devastated as it has. ¡@¡@
Accepting is Living
¡@¡@Accepting fate and changingit at once, is not conflicting, we must be creating while we accept. If the only mentality is sustaining fate, without any form of transcendence or forbearance, then the outcome of that destiny will gravitate towards the negative. When Confucius attended the Treaty of the Canyon, where one hundred thousand Chi soldiers shook the very earth with their drills, the king of Chi asked, “Who would not fear me?” Confucius replied simply, “I do not fear you.”
¡@¡@Is it a bluff? It depends on whether or not you have seen through all factors that are present, like Zhu Geliang’salmost supernatural ability of predicting his opponent’s actions. His ability and daring is indicative of how wise he was, to face an opposing force of one hundred and fifty thousand troops with nothing more than a task force of five thousand, and an empty keep. Hesucceeded in deceiving Sema Yi because of his superior ability as a tactician. Most of us do not have this ability, and can only accept our realities, and this is actually good for a society. Yet, in our democratic society today, very few of us possess Zhu Geliang’s level of wisdom, and yet, so many of us want to change our destiny, so life becomes “miserable.”
Resistance without Conflict
¡@¡@There are two very unique mythological characters in Greek mythology, one is Prometheus, and the other is Sisyphus. The former is considered a benevolent deity, one who suffers the eternal punishment of evisceration for stealing fire and giving it to humanity. The latter is a collective representation of wisdom, guile, versatility, and bravery in ominous times; he is a pursuer of desires, one who shines and dares to challenge the pantheon and Zeus, and the shackles of fate. With grace he exuberates what it means to live a human existence, whilst defying a ludicrous destiny, swinging from passionate to ascetic resistance, fighting to his last breath for freedom, and to finally be spent, beaten, and condemned to bear the task of rolling a boulder up a hill for all eternity.¡@¡@
Conflict without Struggle
¡@¡@On surface value Prometheus and Sisyphus are both failures, like Yue Fei or Wen Tianxiang. However, in terms of free will and the degree of mentalityused in facing and accepting their reality, they constitute as transcendence into the present moment, where neither thoughts of past nor future can corrupt them.Where one’s true self, the nature and spirit of resilience and paragon of transcendence is found. This spirit has unparalleled illumination on the nature of truth, it leaves one mark for every move it makes, it does not need to rely on tricks, advantages, or anything outside of itself, one step leaves one footprint. If we enter this state of mind, body, and spirit, then life is no longer the cyclical pain of surrendering our lives to powers beyondus, it is no longer a Sisyphean task of despair and desperation. It is a life led by Yue Fei, and Wen Tianxiang, as they faced the adverse cruelty of the malevolent beasts of history. They faced it with a method that has no method, with creation and life when all else seemed impossible. They would rather bear the sacrifice of their flesh to procure Benevolence, to allow their place in life to be tarnished for a moment in the great and critical eye of history and culture. In these moments of compassion we see that they converted pain into peace, sorrow into joy, and found hope beyond despair, created victory through failure, converted knowledge into wisdom, and gave us the fire to light the hearts and minds of our future.¡@¡@
Found in the Stars
¡@¡@Many cultures have legends based on stars, believing that stars are our souls. Yue Fei, Wen Tianxiang, you, me, all of us can become a star in the mantle after we die. The truth stated in this legend is that stars represent the light of human compassion and conscience, that they represent our essence, our true selves; and every star has a unique quality to it, its instincts, temperament, conditions, potential relations and connections.Those with more relations or connections to each other will naturally withstand the powers of fate and destiny and continually draw close to one another. Each individual has their own karma, their own desires and passions, their own beastliness and chaos to overcome. Not all of us will have Yue Fei, Wen, or Prometheus, and Sisyphus’ spirit within us. The spirit and strength required to engage and adapt flexibly and balanced to every turn and surprise life has in store, to gain entry to what seems as an impenetrable wall of oppression, to alter ourselves to fit our surroundings but not allow our surroundings to alter us. The worldmay seem to be filled with suffering, and the spirit of life may be dulled and grayed, but one kernel of change can grow into a grove of shelter for the world. The one morsel of goodness inside us can spread just as quickly and powerfully into the hearts and minds of all, to find peace with dust, as dust in the calm of light. Then we will not feel manipulated by destiny, and create our own individual strength to elevate our world.
¡@¡@The movie, A Winter’s Tale, portrays and displays human nature’s brightest side of reception, the nature that allows us to let go of difference and ignorance in a flashand shine our truthfulness, allowing us into the intentions, hearts, and minds of others. We can put down our vices and desires, and represent something far greater than our mortal beings suggests we are, to find the brilliance of Benevolence, Righteousness, Etiquette, and Wisdom, the beauty of unconditional love and its alleviation from the confinements of ignorance. Projecting life into the Good, Beautiful, and Fantastic. The key is in what states our hearts and minds are in during the first moments of receiving, are we being simpleminded, separative, impartial, or pure? If not impartial and pure, then there will be no real connection established. If it was not for her purity, the female protagonist in the film would have been frightened by the thief in her home, and would have been unable to help him atone his violent and turbulent past; it would have not allowed their connection to be withstanding of the power of time and fate, they would have been lost to each other.
¡@¡@Purity is spring’s morning snow, it guides us all back to our origin, and our true selves, to face the trials of destiny, its universe, and the lives we shall lead.
Chi Kung Culture Society of TAIPEI