(For reading in Chinese, please scroll down to the end of the English text.)
(For international readers, allow me to explain: I am an American but I have lived in China since 2004. My city of Chongqing, often abbreviated as CQ, is pronounced Chong Ching to rhyme with Wrong Ring. CQ is a megacity of 30 million people in south-central China, on the Yangtze River.)
From the 18th-Floor homestead
Currently, as we experience the annual joy of summer heat in CQ, the pandemic news from around the world is far from encouraging. To date, I have been spared any personal grief. We (wife, son, and me) are still safe and healthy. With some modifications, we have largely resumed our previous patterns. None of my family in America or in China has been stricken – so far, anyway. I have one friend (in England) who tested positive for the Covid-19 virus but she and her new baby had no subsequent illness. Then, last week, one of my expat friends in CQ received news of an old acquaintance in another country who had died of the virus. That is the extent of my personal experience with the virus. I hope to continue to keep bad news at a safe, impersonal distance. But I am worried that we are far from the end of this pandemic.
In thinking of how to deal with the current situation, I have decided to do two things:
1) I will continue to be diligent about personal hygiene and social distancing. Despite news reports and personal observations about people relaxing their vigilance and reverting to pre-pandemic behaviors, I will not let myself or my family become victims through carelessness or laziness. The famous American actor John Wayne said, “Life is hard; it’s even harder when you’re stupid.” As much as I can control myself and the people closest to me, we won’t be engaging in stupid, high-risk activities. Think of the pandemic as an IQ test; fail this test and you’re dead.
2) I will stop following the 24/7 stream of bad, depressing, alarming – and unreliable – news reports about the pandemic and its effects on the world and local economies. A few minutes each day for scanning headlines or listening to podcasts will be sufficient to make me aware of any imminent dangers and actual changes. Spending more than that small amount of time is only to satisfy morbid curiosity. My blood pressure is already high enough, thank you. I don’t need anything to make it worse. The pandemic is not like a roller coaster ride or a horror movie; those are adrenalin-producing, pay-per-view thrills that some people actually enjoy. But with the pandemic, it’s different. You don’t finish the movie or step off the roller coaster and snap back to your old reality. This pandemic experience is very real and does not have a definite ending in the near future. Thus, I have concluded my time will be better spent on things I can control and have a positive influence upon.
Below is part of an article published in March of 2019. It was only 15 months ago but we certainly live in a vastly changed world now. However, maybe the principle concept of keeping your priorities clear is as relevant as ever.
I find it fascinating to examine all the things people consider important – but which are not truly important. Henry David Thoreau, the author of Walden, was so curious about identifying the basic necessities of life that he spent two years living alone in a very small, primitive cabin he built in the forest so he could eliminate everything but the bare essentials. I hope you will review what you think is most important in your life, how you set your priorities, and how you spend your free time.
One way to decide what is “really important” comes from a story I heard on a podcast recently. The speaker was a lady who had been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. The doctors told her that she had only a few months to live. She was very fortunate; thanks to modern medicine, a wonderful support system, an unwavering positive attitude, and good fortune, she defeated the cancer. However, after that experience, she says she doesn’t allow little things to upset her. When she meets someone who is worried, angry, or stressed about some minor incident in their life, her response is “Oh, really? Do you think that is so important that you should devote your time and energy to it? Really?” When she thought that she had only a short time to live, she decided that she had no time to waste on trivial matters. Even after her recovery from cancer, that experience still reminds her to recognize what is really important in her life.
(June 2020 again)
Most of the Earth’s 7.8 billion people will survive the pandemic. The world economy will take a huge step backward but will recover and many new opportunities will become viable. We merely have to survive this period with persistence, confidence, reasonable behaviors, and forward movement – even if that movement is only in baby steps at times.
So, what is important in your life today? Really? Keep thinking and keep smiling.
决定什么是 “真正重要的 “的一种方法来自于我最近在一个播客中听到的一个故事。演讲者是一位被诊断为第四阶段癌症的女士。医生告诉她，她只剩下几个月的生命了。她是非常幸运的；由于现代医学、良好的支持系统、坚定不移的积极态度和好运，她战胜了癌症。然而，经过那次经历，她说她不允许小事让她难过。当她遇到有人因为生活中的一些小事而担心、生气、紧张时，她的回答是 “哦，是吗？你认为这很重要，你应该把时间和精力投入到这上面去吗？真的吗？”。当她想到自己只有短暂的生命时，她决定没有时间浪费在小事上。即使在她从癌症中康复后，这段经历仍然提醒她要认清生命中真正重要的东西。