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(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.)

In my book China Bound, I briefly address the subject of fate – specifically, whether the concept should be spelled with a small “f” (fate) or a capital “F” (Fate).

Photo by Gerd Altmann

However, regardless of your personal beliefs about the workings of fate/Fate, we must also bear some individual responsibility. Anyone old enough to reflect on their circumstances will recognize at once that everything we are today is a result of our decisions – with, admittedly, some occasional random luck thrown into the mix, i.e, the influence of fate/Fate. Sitting here with a nice cup of coffee on a quiet Saturday morning, I am reflecting that I must be the luckiest guy in the world – regardless of if you capitalize Fate or persist in seeing it as a small f word.

This may seem an odd statement, since we are currently mired in a worldwide pandemic crisis; but it’s true. We cannot completely control our immediate environment and we certainly cannot control what the world throws at us. What we can control, however, is our response to them.

Going even deeper, I’m looking at how every decision I made through my lifetime – good, bad, foolish, hormone-fueled, impulsive, or carefully considered – led me to this Saturday morning, in this city, in my 18th-floor homestead, with this nice cup of coffee. Likewise, wherever you are and whatever your present conditions, your present conditions are also the cumulative results of your decisions.

Truthfully, I’m pretty content with my life at this point. Is it perfect? No, of course not. But I believe that, if they knew of the many good features and the dearth of negative ones in my current life, fully 99% of all the people around the world would love to trade places with me.

Photo by Anja

Let me explain that statement as I sit here savoring my coffee. Most of the time when we envy the standard of living and quality of life of other people, we don’t see that they are accompanied by complications, pressures, time demands, and stresses. Frequently, financial obligations, bad relationships, and social commitments ruin the quality of life of those who are fortunate enough to have a high standard of living. I am largely exempt from those negative influences. Just lucky, I guess. Thanks, fate/Fate.

First of all, I have a quiet and simple lifestyle, as symbolized by my standard opening line: “from the 18th floor homestead”. A quiet and simple life is what I choose. In these frantic times, that lifestyle, which is patterned after role models from earlier periods, is priceless. The earlier era upon which it is modeled is beyond recovery but I have selected some of the best features and brought them forward to 2020.

I frequently think about Henry David Thoreau, author of Walden, and his choice to live alone in the woods in a very small, primitive cabin which he built himself. I would not want to go back to his level of simplicity but I believe an enviable standard of living and a lovely quality of life can be attained, while retaining a relatively simple lifestyle. It takes some effort and it involves a few compromises… but it is possible.

Thus my 18th-floor homestead contains things that were not available to my role models. Thanks to modern technology with its wonderful devices and conveniences, I enjoy a number of creature comforts which keep my simple life from being too simple. With the internet’s online shopping sites and Chongqing’s local resources – and a megacity of 30 million people has a lot of local resources – I have access to almost anything that I might desire… whenever I desire more personal possessions.

Photo by Nattanan Kanchanaprat

However, I really don’t want too many more possessions. I learned that possessions can easily come to possess us with their demands for maintenance, for attention, for appearances, for upgrades, for concerns about what other people think, and for all the time it takes to struggle up the learning curve before we can use them well. And don’t forget the opportunity costs of all those possessions: If you weren’t spending your time with them, what might you be doing? Beware of what you wish for… because you might get it.

Thus, as I sit here with my coffee, I realize that any changes, however minor, in the path that brought me to this particular Saturday morning, would mean that I would not be here, quietly sipping my coffee and reflecting. Any deviations in the twisting path along the way would mean that I would not have the wife and son that I now live with in my humble 18th-floor homestead. Any changes in the decisions I had made would mean that I might not have the quiet and simple life that I devised. Any changes anywhere along the line from birth to this morning, would mean that the quality of life and the standard of living which I enjoy today would probably be different. Perhaps quite different, indeed.

So, with my rapidly cooling coffee, I am very content with the life I have right now. We know that change is inevitable and, most of the time, we cannot predict the specific changes – nor prevent them. Indeed, one thing which the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us is that we should not expect things to be this way tomorrow. (Perhaps we will not even be here tomorrow.) And, with that awareness, we should be much more grateful and conscious of all the blessings that we have.

What about you? Would you wish to change from the lifestyle that you have today? Would you like to trade places with someone else? Why? Do you accept that your life today is the result of the long, long series of decisions you have made? What would it take for you to be satisfied with your life? Maybe it is time to make some new decisions, take some new actions. What can you begin to change to achieve that superior life you just visualized?

Photo byb Foundry Co

But, before you rush off to begin making changes, consider another question: What would it take for you to be more grateful for the many good things – products and services and relationships – you have right now? What do you have today that you should be more grateful for? Are you grateful? Do you express that gratitude? If more people were also conscious of their many blessings, perhaps they would also be saying, “I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”

To learn my conclusions on that capitalization issue of “fate vs Fate?”, you will have to read to the very end of my rather long book, China Bound.

世界上最幸运的人。

在我的《China Bound》一书中,我简要地讨论了命运的问题–具体来说,这个概念是应该用小 “f”(命运)还是大写的 “F”(命运)来拼写*。

然而,不管你个人对命运/Fate运作的信念如何,我们也必须承担一些个人责任。任何一个上了年纪的人,只要能反思自己的处境,就会立刻认识到,我们今天的一切都是我们的决定的结果–诚然,偶尔也会有一些随机的运气加入其中,即命运/命运的影响。在一个安静的周六早晨,坐在这里喝着一杯香醇的咖啡,我在反思,我一定是世界上最幸运的人–不管你是把命运大写,还是坚持把它看成一个小小的f字。

这似乎是一个奇怪的说法,因为我们目前正陷于世界性的流行病危机中;但这是事实。我们无法完全控制眼前的环境,当然也无法控制这个世界扔给我们的东西。然而,我们可以控制的是我们对它们的反应。

更深入地看,我在看我一生中所做的每一个决定–好的、坏的、愚蠢的、荷尔蒙激发的、冲动的、或经过深思熟虑的–是如何把我引向这个星期六的早晨,在这个城市,在我18层的家园里,喝着这杯好咖啡。同样,无论你在哪里,无论你现在的条件如何,你现在的条件也是你决定的累积结果。

说实话,我对现在的生活很满意。它是完美的吗?不,当然不是。但我相信,如果他们知道我现在的生活有很多好的特点,也有很多不好的地方,全世界99%的人都会愿意和我交换位置。

当我坐在这里品味咖啡的时候,让我来解释一下这句话。大多数时候,当我们羡慕别人的生活水平和生活质量时,并没有看到他们伴随着复杂的问题、压力、时间要求和压力。常常,经济义务、糟糕的人际关系和社会承诺毁掉了那些有幸拥有高生活水平的人的生活质量。我在很大程度上免于这些负面的影响。我想,只是幸运吧。谢谢,缘分/命运。

首先,我的生活方式安静而简单,正如我的标准开场白所象征的那样。”来自18楼的家园”。安静而简单的生活是我选择的。在这个疯狂的时代,这种以早期的榜样为原型的生活方式是无价的。它所效仿的早期时代已经无法恢复,但我选择了一些最好的特点,并把它们提前到2020年。

我经常想起《瓦尔登》的作者亨利-戴维-梭罗,以及他选择在森林中独自居住在自己建造的一个很小的原始小木屋里。我不希望回到他的简朴水平,但我相信,在保留相对简单的生活方式的同时,可以达到令人羡慕的生活水平和可爱的生活质量。这需要一些努力,也需要一些妥协……但这是可能的。

因此,我的18楼的家园包含了我的榜样们所没有的东西。多亏了现代科技及其美妙的设备和便利,我享受到了一些生物性的舒适,使我的简单生活不至于太简单。有了互联网的网购网站和重庆的本地资源–而一个3000万人口的特大城市拥有大量的本地资源–我几乎可以获得任何我可能想要的东西……只要我渴望更多的个人财产。

然而,我真的不希望再有太多的财产。我了解到,财物很容易来占有我们,它们对维护的要求,对关注的要求,对外表的要求,对升级的要求,对别人看法的关注,以及在我们能用好它们之前,需要在学习曲线上挣扎的所有时间。而且不要忘记这些财产的机会成本。如果你不把时间花在它们身上,你会做什么?小心你的愿望… 因为你可能会得到它。

因此,当我坐在这里喝咖啡的时候,我意识到,在把我带到这个特殊的星期六早晨的道路上的任何变化,无论多么微小,都意味着我将不会在这里静静地喝着咖啡和思考。沿途曲折的道路上的任何偏差,都意味着我将不会有现在和我一起生活在我那简陋的18层楼房里的妻子和儿子。我所做的任何决定的改变,都意味着我可能不会有我所设计的安静而简单的生活。从出生到今天早上,任何地方的变化,都意味着我今天所享受的生活质量和生活水平可能会有所不同。也许真的会大不相同。

所以,喝着急速冷却的咖啡,我对现在的生活非常满意。我们知道,变化是不可避免的,而且,大多数时候,我们无法预测具体的变化–也无法阻止它们。事实上,科维德-19大流行给我们的一个启示是,我们不应该期待明天的情况会是这样。(也许我们明天就不在这里了。)而且,有了这种意识,我们应该更加感激和意识到我们所拥有的所有祝福。

那你呢?你是否希望改变你今天的生活方式?你愿意和别人交换位置吗?为什么要换?你是否接受你今天的生活是你所做的一系列漫长的决定的结果?你要怎样才能对自己的生活感到满意?也许是时候做出一些新的决定,采取一些新的行动。你可以开始改变什么,以实现你刚刚想象的优越生活?

但是,在你急着开始做出改变之前,请考虑另一个问题。你要怎样才能更感激现在拥有的许多好东西–产品、服务和关系?你今天有哪些东西应该更加感恩?你是否心存感激?你会表达这种感激之情吗?如果更多的人也能意识到自己的诸多福气,也许他们也会说:”我是世界上最幸运的人。”

*要了解我对那个大写的 “命运与缘分?”问题的结论,你得读到我那本相当长的《中国缘》的最后。

One Reply to “The Luckiest Guy In The World.”

  1. Hi Randy,
    Nice to read your new blog here. I think your essay always makes me calm and peaceful. Our life is fulfilled and exhausted, world changes so quickly, so we have to run faster and faster. But happiness and simple life will give much more than money and work. Normal life is made by our formal decisions, so what we decide now will make our future life.
    Yes, you are the luckiest man in the world, the standard should be in yourself, not in other’s comments and eyes. I also need learn to be satisfied with my life, other’s comments are not much important for my life.

    Hope you well~

    Bonnie

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