閱讀小談 (A Few Words About Reading)

By Dr. De Yin Jeng dyjeng@jengacademic.com, President of the Jeng Academic Center (JAC), Thousand Oaks, CA, August 3, 2019

ENGLISH VERSION IS BELOW CHINESE VERSION

“閱讀小談:

當今之世,人人知道要讀書。每個家長老師長輩都鼓勵獎賞孩子要好好讀書。讀書長見識,增見聞,開智慧,充實心靈,撫慰精神,縱使不能徹底改變氣質,無法開拓萬古之心胸,不曾想過為往聖繼絕學,對萬世開太平茫然無知,但試考的好,文章寫得漂亮,入頂尖學校,進百大企業集團,領高薪,擠身上流社會的一員,這樣的未來憧憬有什麼問題?

沒有問題。除非。。。

除非你的孩子擁有真正獨立自由的心靈,已經真正學會深刻思想的真諦,確實理解教育的最終目的在成為一個完整,善良的人,那麼他/她會同意一百六十餘年前,亨利大衛梭羅在一百六十餘年前,在華爾登湖畔離群索居時寫下的如是文句:「每一百萬人中,只有一個人真正清醒地活著。」而不會把這樣的話語當作是修辭技巧,或是瘋人的夢囈,而會思考他/她為什麼活著。

讀書開拓心靈,啟發思想。這不是作文章隨口說說。心靈一旦開拓,思想一旦啟發,它便會溥博如天,淵泉如淵,要求極品。這不是貪婪,這是崇高,這是深刻,是無法抑止的生命需求,對美好事物的自然嚮往,對庸俗粗燥的天然厭棄,對短暫功利實用主義的無法饜足,對生命真實面貌的強烈渴求,對虛浮假像的不耐,以及對真誠,美麗,和平的真實擁抱。

過去兩百年來的西方思潮,由功利主義和實用主義兩大主流引領風騷,開疆闢土,蔚蔚然在科學科技經濟商貿建設蓬勃發展,至矣盛矣。於是人人盡知有近兩百年來的功利和實用主義,而不知西方思潮更有兩千四百年的偉大人文傳統,歷兩千餘年不歇而衰於兩百年前,現在依舊流傳於少數古典教育體系和宗教團體,它的目的是教導如何成為一個完整快樂的古典人,而不只是(注意,非「而不是」)功利與實用的現代人。

任何有獨立思想的人,都不會甘於「我只需功利與實用的事物,而不需人文素養」,任何真心關心子女幸福快樂的父母,都會希望子女真正體會教育學習的目的,都會希望子女學識淵博,工作有著落,收入豐盛,生活無虞。但,在此之餘,沒有人會反對他們更有崇高的理想,深刻的思想,完美的情操,和諧的人格,廣博的智慧,以面對生命的瞬息萬變和滄海桑田,人生的高潮與低潮,世間的寵辱興衰。”

“A few words about Reading:

Today, everyone knows the importance of reading. All parents, teachers, or mentors encourage and inspire their children to read widely and deeply. Reading enlarges vision, expands knowledge, cultivates wisdom, enriches the mind, and fulfills the deepest yearning of human spirit. Even if reading cannot consecrate one’s secular inclination, fails to turn the reader into lover of wisdom, or inspire in him a genuine interest in cultural heritage, it remains undoubtedly beneficial for those who are good at reading. They do well in taking tests, writing good essays, entering prestigious colleges, being employed by the top 500 corporate companies, getting high income, and eventually becoming a member of the upper class. What problem could there be for such a promising prospect?

There is no problem. Unless…

Unless your child happens to have an independent, free mind, knows the essence of deep thinking, and understands that the ultimate purpose of education is to become a complete human being capable of goodness and kindness, he or she is not likely to understand Henry David Thoreau’s message,“… only one in a million is awake enough for effective intellectual exertion, only one in a hundred millions to a poetic or divine life. To be awake is to be alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awake…” Without a deep-thinking mind, such message might easily be dismissed as mere rhetorical hyperbole or the nightmarish gibberish of a lunatic.

Reading enlarges the mind and inspires thinking. Once the mind is enlarged and the thinking inspired, it cannot help but become lofty and unfathomably deep—ready for things of only the highest quality. Such is certainly not a mind of greed, but of nobility and profundity. An enlightened mind develops an insuppressible demand for life, a natural yearning for the beautiful, an innate distaste for the vulgar, a natural dissatisfaction with the merely transient, a strong thirst for the real reality in life, a revolt against the illusory and hypocritical, and a genuine embrace of sincerity, beauty, peace, love. 

For over two hundred years, utilitarianism has been dominating the world, disengaging generations of young people from the liberal education and the Great Tradition, implanting in millions the notion of usefulness and material well-being, and dispelling the fundamental understanding of a “complete man,” who needs both the tangible, the materialistic, and the invisible, the spiritual. In the past two hundred years, the progress of science, technology, and commerce has been astonishingly successful. Yet, those who are deepened in the utilitarian and the material world tend to be oblivious of another Great Tradition of liberal education that has had a long history of over twenty four hundred years. This Great Tradition, the function of which is to educate one to become a complete and happy man, can still be found in institutes teaching classical education and some religious groups. It aims for a holistic, happy man, not just the pursuit of practicality as known to modern man.  

Those with true independent minds will not be content with a life of only things utilitarian or useful; they will aspire for intellectual and spiritual cultivation. Any parents who genuinely care about their children’s well-being and happiness will hope that their children truly understand the meaning and purpose of education and learning. All parents want their children to be knowledgeable, to have good jobs, to be among the affluent. Moreover, no parents will object to their having—in addition to pursuing the materialistically useful—lofty ideals, deep thinking, noble sentiment, harmonious personality, and great wisdom to face with aplomb the ebb and flow of daily encounters, the vicissitudes of life, and the inherent impermanence of human existence.”

Copyrighted – De Ying Jeng. Granted for posting on the California Parent Alliance (CPA) site.

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