Friday, June 6, 2008

Happy everyday

I recently finished reading the book Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. It's a book that will probably leave me thinking for a long time, but there was a particular passage that jumped out at me in light of where I'm working. One of the common phrases in Chinese is "happy everyday" and it is quite common for students to say, "I wish you happy everyday". When my students write in their journals about their hopes for the future and their purpose in life, their answers often revolve around happiness. First and foremost, they want their family to have a very happy life, and secondarily they wish to have a happy life. In no way do I believe being happy is a bad thing; however, I would argue against having it as a sole aim and purpose of life. Huxley's words seemed particularly fitting for this Chinese mindset:
But once you began admitting explanations in terms of purpose--well, you didn't know what the result might be. It was the sort of idea that might easily decondition the more unsettled minds among the higher castes--make them lose their faith in happiness as the sovereign good and take to believing, instead, that the goal was somewhere beyond, somewhere outside the present human sphere; that the purpose of life was not the maintenance of well-being, but some intensification and refining of consciousness, some enlargement of knowledge.
Last weekend, the team took an end of the year retreat to Shenyang. Despite the fact that I began the trip with a 100 degree fever, it was an awesome time of relaxing and reflecting. I sometimes forget how vital it is to "get away" for a little bit, even if things are incredibly busy. The short trip gave me a final boost of energy for this last push of the semester. I'm in wrap-up mode--and will be getting on a plane in 15 days!

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