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Friday, 15 June 2007

Wisdom

By E. L. Lee of Pomegranate Tiger

Somebody once told me he thought I was wise. I don’t want to be called wise. It’s too much responsibility. I don’t want people to think I have all the answers. I don’t want people to think that just because I write down my beliefs on this blog that I think I’m wise.

If anything, my constant introspection and sharing of experiences reminds me of some of my greatest follies. All I have are life experiences that I’m willing to share with whoever might want to listen.

I think my grandfather was wise, though he likely would have disputed it. He lived into his nineties, a long and varied life immigrating to Canada at the age of eighteen, teaching himself to read and write English, living through the BC gold rush, the building of the BC railroad, two world wars, riots against the “Yellow Peril”, fires, the Depression, bankruptcy, defrauding by a business partner, two wives and raising of six children.

Through all of this, he remained a gentle, quiet man. He never raised his voice, never struck back at those who mistreated him believing that to do so would be to lower himself to their standards. He lived the Golden Rule of “treating others as you wish to be treated”.

I always think of him as a gentleman and a scholar. I remember that he read constantly. Every evening, he’d be in his room, perched on a stool and hunched over a side counter/desk reading English and Chinese newspapers or his worn, tattered story books, dictionary close at hand.

If he wasn’t reading, he’d be doing calligraphy – gnarled hands around the bamboo brush dipping alternately into a dish of water then a black ink block, wrist twisting and turning like an orchestra conductor in miniature to achieve the perfect point, before letting loose with swift, sure strokes down a tissue-paper page – soft, bold, dark, light.

Some of the characters I recognized, some I didn’t, but he made it all look effortless and beautiful. He tried teaching me, but I was young, impatient and unmotivated. All I can remember to write is my name and too few words to make a coherent sentence.

He believed in sharing his experiences. He liked telling stories, both his own and the folk tales he learned as a child. It’s how he ultimately passed on his values and beliefs. I see them in myself and even in my youngest brother who doesn’t really remember grandfather but learned anyway, one generation removed via our father.

Maybe it’s why I have this compulsion to tell my stories and share my experiences for the benefit of my sons. I’d like to think they’ll carry some of my values with them through life, but of course there’s no guarantee. They’re strong-willed, independent souls who’ll figure it out in their own time.

I do, however, smile silently to myself when I hear them repeat something I told them long ago - as if it was their own idea. Yet, in a way, it is. They chose to internalize it, just as I did at their age. That's how the values and wisdom of my grandfather will live on.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:23 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

I love hearing my children impart some piece of knowledge to their kids that I remember passing down to them. It speaks to the continuity of life and learning, and makes me smile.

Beautifully told. I believe that true immortality is the lessons we are able to impart to our children and grandchildren.

You are wise when you recognize wisdom.

Your description of your grandfather's calligraphy is poetry in itself.

"If he wasn’t reading, he’d be doing calligraphy – gnarled hands around the bamboo brush dipping alternately into a dish of water then a black ink block, wrist twisting and turning like an orchestra conductor in miniature to achieve the perfect point, before letting loose with swift, sure strokes down a tissue-paper page – soft, bold, dark, light."

Thank you.

This had me in the audience and on the stage; a full experience of what you were saying. So very well presented.

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