極端主義 Extremism

本週我想聊聊極致與極端主義。極致不見得是負面的,但極端主義常涉及不合理甚至可憐的境界。上星期我就經歷了一件被我歸類為極致的事件。雖然生理上不再像個男孩般精力旺盛,但由於常和學生接觸,所以心態上是年輕的。年輕人不斷有新鮮想法與創意,我們也從他們身上學習。

現在聊聊我的經驗:上週五,我和朋友去看班傑明布里頓的歌劇《豪門幽魂》,劇本的細節在我看來是闡述相對於愛、同理心與希望下的失去、孤獨與瘋狂。儘管音樂優美,劇情卻困擾著我。回家的路上,我祈求這世界別像亨利詹姆士筆下一般。我相信世界上有邪惡,但大多數的現實生活中是不存在邪惡的。我仍相信世上有更多良善。這並不天真,但我是如何假設的呢?首先是我的年紀,在我五十八年生涯中,從未受到槍傷或任何形式的襲擊,要不是我太過幸運,就是其實大多數人都和我一樣。人類多是堂堂正正、體恤他人的。

聽過「大人物」嗎?這是個創立於1991年的樂團。或許他們的髮型已經過時,但歌曲雋永傳唱。我受學生所邀,上週六晚間去聽了他們的演唱會。他建議我早點到場以便佔個好位。我到場後排在隊伍的非常前面,和同行者討論著這個四人樂團和他們持久不下的人氣。這時我根本還沒進入歌迷狀態,其他人則興致高昂等待大門敞開。突然間時間到了,現場就像水庫洩洪一樣將人流傾倒而出,我們就這樣被推著走,穿過門口來到舞台前。約莫後四排有一位我高中的學生,我邀她到前排來聽,但我身邊的人卻說:「我們不想分享。」經過我的請求,每個人終於肯個讓個五公分讓這位女孩排進來。

接下來發生的事情很超現實:三個小時爆炸性的演出,吉他聲演奏著,身軀也扭動著。我身邊這位女孩竟然哭了起來─真是戲劇化。對我來說最精采的時刻是主唱Eric Martin彎腰向我要口香糖,一切好不真實,卻又太人性了。然後演唱會結束了,我的下場是短暫失聰,這就沒那麼好玩了。在此之前我最後聽的演唱會是十八歲那年在巴黎的The Who(何許人合唱團)

極端主義帶給我們的可能比短暫失聰更糟,它會揪住我們的自由意志,摧毀我們的獨立思考能力。這個概念可應用於對政治或宗教偏見的狂熱主義。我們必須承諾自己不可落入其泥淖。人本該生而快樂自由,而非受限於愚昧的意識形態。既然生而為人,我們的任務是什麼?我相信是分享彼此的長才。我們必須吸收、分析知識,將所得智慧回歸給世界。印度教重要哲學家辨喜(Swami Vivekananda)曾說:我們的思想會成就我們成為怎樣的人,所以請謹慎的思考,說出來的話是次要的,思想有生命,且可以旅行到很遠的地方。

本週散心或運動時,也想想極端主義這個概念吧─其邪惡必遭剔除。

每天試著尋找生活中神奇、美麗的事物。

 

This week, I would like to talk about extremes and extremism. Extremes need not necessarily have negative connotations, while extremism enters the realm of the unreasonable and the pathetic. This past weekend, I had an experience that I would like to categorize as living in the extremes. I am not boyish, physically, but I am constantly stimulated by the adolescents that I have the honor of educating: this keeps me young. Our youth are constantly filled with fresh and effervescent ideas and thoughts, and we learn from them.

Now my world of extremes: Last Friday night, I went to the opera with a friend of mine. The oeuvre was Benjamin Britten’s, The Turn of the Screw. The libretto details, in my opinion, the tragedy of loss, isolation and madness contrasted against love, compassion and hope. Though the music was excellent, the plot left me deeply troubled. As I walked home, I prayed that the world was not as dark as Henry James vision. I believe that evil exists in the world, but it is not a part of most people’s reality. Thus, I would maintain that the world is mostly good. Now, I am not naïve. How do I support this thesis? I would begin with my age. In my fifty-eight years of life, I have never been shot, stabbed, assaulted or robbed. You can add other violent details if you so desire, but this reality has never been a part of my life: either I am extremely lucky or this is a fact for most of humanity. We all know that this is the truth: human beings are normally decent and thoughtful.

Anyone ever hear of Mr. Big? It is a super band that originally began in 1991. Their hair may be gone but the sound continues. Last Saturday night, I was invited by one of my students to attend their concert in Taichung. He suggested that I come early to get a good position in the venue. I arrived only to see my charge at the very, very beginning of the line. I stood beside him discussing the foursome and the reason for their longevity. I was not prepared for the ardor of the fan base. They chortled and bubbled waiting for the doors to open. Suddenly, it was time. It was like the pent-up water in a dam being released: we literally gushed from the front of the line, through the doors into the breakwater at the front of the stage: we were first. Our location suggested that “nice guys finish last.” About four lines back, there was a young girl from one of my high schools. I invited her to join the line: much to the chagrin of my other line-mates. “We don’t want to share.” After some pleading on my part everyone gave five centimeters and the sweet young woman was accommodated in the queue.

What came next was totally surreal: the stage exploded. Guitars and writhing bodies slithered and launched themselves into the air for the next three hours. The young lady beside me began to weep: what drama. My most fascinating experience was when the lead singer, Eric Martin, bent down and asked me for a piece of gum. It was human, all too human.Then it was over. The consequence was that I could not hear: great fun. The last concert I attended was in Paris when I was eighteen years old: I listened to The Who.

Extremism, however, does more than deafen us; it seizes our free will and diminishes independent thought. This concept can be anything from fanaticism in political thought to prejudice in religion. We must promise ourselves that we will fight against this sickness. Mankind is meant to be free and happy, not ideologically amaurotic and stupid. When we stand back as human beings, what is our mandate? It is, I believe, to share our excellence. We must take in knowledge, analyze the data and return our synthesized wisdom to the world. Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902), a key figure in the introduction of the Indian philosophies Vedanta and Yoga to Western society, leaves us with a thought (He introduced Hinduism at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago in 1893): We are what our thoughts have made us; so take care about what you think. Words are secondary. Thoughts live; they travel far.

This week, during your exercise schedule, please consider the concept of extremism on your meditative stroll: its evil must be expunged.

Every day look for something magical and beautiful.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.